The Last Vermeer Review – An Intensely Interesting Historical Thriller

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The Last Vermeer, from Tri-Star Pictures, brings to the screen a true story of the notorious art dealer Han Van Meegeren, life in occupied Netherlands, survival, betrayal, and hope under the backdrop of post-World War II destruction.

The film opens with allied troops blowing the locks off a train boxcar. The expectation is that they will open the doors and rescue prisoners of war. As it is the contents of the boxcar contain the stolen national treasures sold to Herman Goring. They pull the covering off a painting to find it is a priceless Vermeer.

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We meet Joseph Piller, played by Claes Bang, who in post-World War II has become an investigator recovering artifacts and treasures stolen by the Nazi's. The sale of the last known Vermeer was traced to a local art dealer, Han Van Meegeren, played by Guy Pearce.

It became Pillar's quest to discover if Van Meegeren had actually been selling Dutch art treasures to Hermann Goring and other top Nazis which would make him a collaborator with the Nazi's or did he unwittingly swindled them with impressive forgeries.

Pillar arrests Meegeren, who even in custody remains a flamboyant, over the top, character who appears to have the edge on Pillar. Word of his arrest travels up to his superiors and the Allied government officer, Alex de Klerks, played by August Diehl, attempts to secure the prisoner.

Pillar refuses and in a race against time moves the prisoner to his make-shift office. From this place Meegeren explains he can prove his innocence. The war's heavy toll on everyone and Meegeren, whose chose a different path of resistance during the war clashed with Pillar who fought in the resistance. Both men carry the scars of the past, they each wear them differently.

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Even as the war is over, the trauma of the years of occupation, death, and destruction, weigh heavily on all and those who suffered are determined to bring to justice the collaborators. Van Meegeren, who all believe is a collaborator as should be shot in the street, as the film shows, is finally brought to trial.

Despite mounting evidence, Piller, with the aid of his assistant, Minna, played by Vicky Krieps, becomes increasingly convinced of Han's innocence and finds himself in the unlikely position of fighting to save his life. We meet Bernard Bakker, played by Karl Johnson, who for the price of ration coupons agrees to acting as lead defense attorney.

The intensely interesting suspenseful story culminates in the courtroom scene. Even with the evidence against Van Meegeren slowing eroding, the post war trauma causes the truth to be muddied with uniformed experts and the heavy psychological toll of the war becomes the conscience.

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World War II remains a rich topic that has not reached a saturation point. The story behind The Last Vermeer, which pits a barely recognizable art dealer arrested for collaboration with the enemy, and nearly shot in the street, against a battle weary people to then became The Netherlands most celebrated hero, has translated into a exciting against all odds victory.

The Last Vermeer, a riveting thriller, layers the story with the life of survival against the occupation, the heartache over the loss of national innocence, dealing with emotional trauma and choices of outright fighting the enemy or remaining free by faking alliances, and bringing the enemies closer.

The Last Vermeer opens Friday November 20, 2020 in theaters. (Check local listings).

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The Last Vermmer

Year 2020

Language – English

Directed by - Dan Friedkin

Starring - Guy Pearce, Claes Bang, Vicky Krieps, Roland Møller, August Diehl, Olivia Grant, Adrian Scarborough and Karl Johnson.

Written By - James McGee, and Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby

Based on the book "The Man Who Made Vermeers" By Jonathan Lopez

Running time - 127minutes

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