Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 24, 2021)
With 2020ís The Last Vermeer, we get an unusual tale related to World War II. Based on real events, we head to Holland in the years after that conflictís conclusion.
Dutch Captain Joseph Piller (Claes Bang) fought for the anti-Nazi resistance, and he now works to find and redistribute art the Germans stole. This leads him to Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce), a wealthy artist and culture lover.
During WWII, Han hosted fancy soirees and sold valuable Dutch art to the Nazis Ė or did he? While van Meegerenís guilt seems tough to dispute, Piller suspects the truth may tell a different story.
As one who remains fascinated by WWII history, I figured Vermeer would be right up my alley. While the subject matter strays from the usual battles and political machinations, it still seemed like potentially compelling material.
And that remains true, as the story involved here comes with ample potential. Unfortunately, the end product seems oddly inert.
This doesnít make Vermeer a bad movie, but it seems more than a little slow and dry. We just tend not to feel much in terms of consequences or threat.
This seems perplexing, especially given the fact Han possibly faces capital punishment. Despite this sense of doom, the stakes persistently come across as low, and the situations never really involve the viewer.
Much of the movieís first half passes in a sluggish, bland manner. When Hanís claims of innocence materialize around the flickís midpoint, matters improve somewhat, but even then, the tale lacks much passion or drama.
Much of the issue comes from the use of Joseph as the main character. He becomes a dull protagonist, one with whom we sympathize somewhat but we never bond, as he remains flat and lifeless.
Played in a campy manner by Pearce, Han offers a more compelling figure, but not an especially interesting one because the movie never makes him more than a slippery fop. The film doesnít give him any form of depth, so he feels entertaining but superficial.
All of this seems like fodder for a vivid story, but Vermeer canít find a beating heart. It turns into a slow, bland exploration of the material.