Allowing for a few minor faults, breathtaking.

With its relentless pace, explosive action scenes and espionage themes, not to mention a glamorous lead in the shape of Carice van Houten, there was a fear that Paul Verhoeven’s first Dutch production in over twenty years could’ve regressed to sub-Bond/Bourne levels – and given the dire double-strike of Starship Troopers and Hollow Man that was definitely a possibility.

Fortunately Black Book is, allowing for a few minor faults, breathtaking. The tale is of Rachel Steinn (van Houten), a young Jewish woman whose enlistment in the Dutch resistance results in a mission to seduce senior SS officer Müntze with the aim of unravelling the organisation’s tactics.

Verhoeven exudes a plethora of skills throughout; the action is bombastic and overwhelming to the senses, the plot crams what would normally require several hours of narrative detail into 145 minutes and there’s an intelligence at play here that outranks more pedestrian war/spy efforts. Sure, it’s far-fetched at times, that’s the nature of the beast to some extent and therefore highly recommended.

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