Movie Review & Giveaway: The Book Thief

Posted 11/07/2013 by alicemarvels in Behind the scenes

The Book Thief Movie Review sta


It’s no secret that we’re excited about The Book Thief movie around these parts. We’ve been voraciously following each bit of casting news, every trailer, heck, even rogue production pics, anything we could get our grubby little hands on. The Book Thief is one of our favorite YA books, and judging by its perennial spot on the bestseller lists, we’re not alone in feeling that way.

We saw an advance screening of The Book Thief alongside a group of local press reviewers, most of whom hadn’t read the book. I mention this only because I want it to mean something when I say that many people came out of our screening with mascara tracks, red noses and red eyes, heads down, doing the walk of crying-hard-at-a-movie shame. So this movie affected EVERYONE who saw it, not just book nerds who know this story inside and out, and are practically tearing up just watching teasers (like we were).

I don’t want to spoil the movie by talking about particulars, because the plot points, both large and small (including some of my favorite from the book) are a delight to uncover on your own, but I can say this is a superb adaptation of a novel, and quite an impressive feat at that (the book is 550+ pages). I wasn’t sure a film adaptation could capture the spirit and emotional complexity of the book, but director Brian Percival and screenwriter Michael Petroni focus on the right moments, giving Liesel and her newfound family and friends in Molching wonderful character and life.

Rosa and Hans Hubermann THE BOOK THIEF

The casting is superb in this movie. I expected Geoffrey Rush to be amazing, he always completely disappears into roles, and he was wonderful as the kindhearted, accordion-playing Hans Hubermann. Emily Watson surprised me with her tough but lovable Rosa. I wasn’t sure she was right for the role when the casting news came out, but I needn’t have worried, she was absolutely amazing, delivering admonishments with a twinkle in her eyes. Ben Schnetzer brought Max, the boy in the basement with the drawings and the “swampy eyes” to life wonderfully, making the most of his screen time to worm his way into our hearts.

Liesel Meminger and Rudy Steiner THE BOOK THIEF

But The Book Thief  belongs to its youngest stars. Sophie Nelisse and Nico Liersch absolutely made the movie for me. These two are gifted beyond their young years, and I can’t imagine any other actors doing Liesel and Rudy better justice. The had a wonderful dynamic together, but also had many standout solo scenes. Getting my favorite saukerl and saumench right was, in my mind, the biggest job of the moviemakers, and they succeeded marvelously.

Death narrates THE BOOK THIEF movie

Death does indeed narrate the tale in the movie, and Roger Allam does a wonderful job, puling off an appropriate bemused yet grave tone. But Death’s lighter lines never diminished the emotion of his visits to these good characters. Even the characters’ near misses with him onscreen had my stomach in knots.

Max and Hans in the basement THE BOOK THIEF

What really translates to film so marvelously is the impact of war on all sides, and how most people aren’t unkind or violent, even if they’re on the wrong side of a war. History is written by the victors, of course, so we don’t often approach Nazi Germany with the kind of empathy for German citizens that we are forced to feel during this movie. Both the book and the film present a heartbreaking look at the lives of good people torn apart by the capriciousness of war. Even Death himself, who has taken an unusual interest in Liesel’s life, and surely would not choose of his own volition to cause her any more pain, can’t avoid war.

Liesel and Hans THE BOOK THIEF

There was a variation on one of my favorite quotes from Death in the book that really hits its mark when surrounded the cruel visuals of the Nazi war machine.

“I’ve seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me.”


This is a beautiful adaptation that manages to retain its literary bones, while adding a tenderness and emotion that comes from staring into earnest, hopeful faces and seeing affection and love grow between strangers, turning them into family. The Book Thief will cause the most stoic of moviegoers to open up their emotions and their minds to a touching story of family, tragedy and history—true history, not just the brave heroics of the winning side.

The Book Thief bomb shelter

Don’t see this movie with someone you’re not comfortable blubbering in front of. I recommend The Book Thief  for everyone. Even if you haven’t read the book, it is such a beautiful film, and it is fairly faithful to the book, so you won’t be tarnishing the story if you see it first.


Watch the trailer:

The Book Thief opens in theaters in limited release on November 8th, in wider release on November 15th. Find out where you can see the movie in your city here!

Read a discussion guide here.


Thank you to Twentieth Century Fox / Fox 2000 for providing us with the opportunity to see this advanced screening!


Because we have all adored this book for years, we have to celebrate its cinematic release with a book giveaway. We have three movie tie-in editions of The Book Thief, including one autographed by Markus Zusak, to give away. Grand prize is the signed copy, and two runners-up will win paperback movie tie-ins.



Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. (US and International entries welcome for this giveaway).
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    I def need to read this one, and watch


    You’ve made me even more excited for the movie (and go y’all, getting an early screening! Nice.). I’ll probably have to wait to watch it at home because I seriously hate crying in public. I’m an UGLY cryer!


    Sounds amazing. I saw the trailer in the theater when I saw Austenland and it realllllly struck a chord with me. I look forward to seeing it. Then perhaps afterwards I will read it. GREAT review as usual doll.


    I am so relieved to hear you say this lived up to the book! I haven’t read it yet but I do plan on starting it here soon and I was seriously hoping I wouldn’t be disappointed in the movie.

    Great review!


    I can’t wait to see this. The Book Thief is one of my favorite books!


    I haven’t read this book but I’m so, so, so excited for the movie! I’m glad you thought the casting was spectacular, I can’t wait to see those two young actors just blow me away. Plus, I adore Geoffrey Rush. He’s never once disappointed me! I’m nervous about all the crying, but I have no doubt I’m going to love this:)


    Beautiful review! I’m always hesitant when my favorite books are translated on the screen but your reaction to the movie have eased my anxiety about it. I’ll be sure to bring lots of tissues when I see it as I’m sure I will need them. Whenever I see the trailer I have a big lump in my throat too. Can’t wait to see the movie!


    Wow it sounds like Hollywood actually did a good job with this book to movie adaptation, those are so rare. I haven’t read this book yet but I have wanted to forever! I will have to do so so that I can be ready to watch this one when it comes out on DVD.

    Side note: I had no idea this was narrated by death!


    Ooo I want to see this over Thanksgiving and I still need to read the book, at least it stays true, so maybe I can break my own rules and see it first! LOL


    The casting IS amazing and I have such a good feeling about it all, even though I usually dread adaptations of books I loved. I just know this one is different.
    I already made plans to see it with my mom and my sister, the only two people in the world I’m not ashamed to cry horribly in front of. The trailers are fantastic and I can’t wait to see it.
    Thank you for the gorgeous review.


    Lovely review!! I’ve wanted to read this book for such a long time. I didn’t know it was becoming a movie until a few months back…so I really need to get started on the book. I’d love to see it in the theater (so that’s great you really enjoyed the adaptation) but I need to read the book first.


    Oh cool, I can enter too 😀


    Oh 550+ pages thrills me rather than scares me off. That means that I may have my answers, or at least will be filled enough (hopefully). I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time now, but haven’t gotten to it. Probably will end up seeing the movie first and I’m so glad that you said that it wouldn’t affect the reading. I’ll remember to have tissues available at all times. 🙂


    Aright I have to read this before the movie. I bought the book back in 2008, one of the first books on my kindle and I have been too chicken to read it. I am going to do it during the Thanksgiving holiday! I can’t wait to see the movie! Thanks for sharing this post. I think it is awesome that so many people left blubbering.


    I cannot thank you enough for bringing all these info to me. I don’t follow different sites in order to get all the newest info about the new movies, but you do amazing posts about them. It’s nothing new that I loved this book too and I cannot wait to see the movie. It seems to me it’ll be amazing 🙂


    Thank you so much for the wonderful movie review! I knew I wanted to see this but now even more so! Thanks so much for sharing and for the great giveaway! 😉


    Gosh, even reading your review has me feeling incredibly emotional. I LOVED the book (and cried endlessly after it), so I’m definitely planning to watch this movie as soon as I can. I’m so glad to hear it’s a great adaptation of the novel. My biggest concern was also that they wouldn’t capture the feel and emotion of the story, but I’m feeling a lot more confident about it now. Thanks for the helpful review!


    Thanks so much for this wonderful review. I listened to TBT on audiobook a little while back and I just adored it. The ending was so bitter sweet. <3 I've been excited about the movie, but a little nervous too since I wasn't sure they'd be able to capture the essence of the book. So glad you liked it!


    Oh wow! what a great review 😀 I really want to win this. Again thanks for awesome post and the chance to win .



    thank you for this fantastic contest! i need to read this asap!


    I must admit – I haven’t read this book yet! Arrggh, I know it’s terrible!! It’s partly that I haven’t found the time and partly that I need to be in a very particular mood to read a book like this. And I’m sure I would feel the same way about seeing the movie if people were leaving the movie bawling! It’s SO great that you thought this adaptation was well done – it must be a great relief to all fans of this book. I hope I can count myself as a fan of the book soon and then after I’ve read the book, I’ll definitely watch this!


    i cant wait it is this movie i am a guy but i know i be bawling my eyes out


    I have to disagree with your contention that the movie is a “superb adaptation” of the book. So many plot points were changed needlessly, all for the worse. Liesel’s character is scrubbed up to the point where she refuses to acknowledge being a thief — unlike the book where she wraps her identity around it with pride. The amalgamation of several characters into one Rudy antagonist was an awful touch, and Max looked too healthy by half. The mayor’s wife changed from a pivotal character to a puzzling afterthought. And my favourite scene — Hans giving the bread to the Jews in the parade and being whipped — was changed to him speaking up on behalf of a shopkeeper. Not the same AT ALL.

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