Set during WWII, a story seen through the innocent eyes of Bruno, the eight-year-old son of the commandant at a German concentration camp, whose forbidden friendship with a Jewish boy on the other side of the camp fence has startling and unexpected consequences.
While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others. In the basement of her home, a Jewish refugee is being protected by her adoptive parents.
Spielberg's film is his vision of Michael Morpurgo's beloved book, which must surely now be essential reading for all kids, if it wasn't before.
Superficially it's about a horse named Joey and a boy called Albert, who become inseparable through a series of unfortunate events World War I being one of them. A closer look reveals a story of such overwhelming humanity that I was bowled over. Spielberg was the only director for this film because he knows what it means to be a child.
Whether or not it is apparent in the book, there's no doubt this is a war film, one that ranks with Spielberg's 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Schindler's List'. Emily Watson's character utters a line about the refusal of being proud of killing, which is the line one might use to summarise the film's point. Because Spielberg is Jewish, this line is pregnant with meaning. It's his noble way of saying that, despite the suffering received by his kin, he is willing to forgive their oppressors.
There's a scene where Joey is trapped by barbed-wire in no man's land and is freed by the combined effort of an Englishman and a German, who put aside their differences under the name of human decency. The scene is breathtaking, and it's the sort which no-one does better than Spielberg.
Long-time collaborator John Williams provides a moving score, regardless of its resemblance to the one he composed for 'Saving Private Ryan'. Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski reminds us of the beauty of our rural regions by photographing the Devonshire countryside with reverence.
Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Niels Arestrup and Tom Hiddleston form the principal cast and are wonderful. Nothing could have prepared me for how much I'd be moved. There's no reason why you won't be.
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