Linda Cook review: ‘The Last Vermeer’ is based on a true story about art and deception

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A courtroom drama and a mystery set post-World War II, “The Last Vermeer” is a lovely drama with Guy Pearce in one of his finest roles.

The movie played last year at the Toronto International Film Festival, and now has come to the big screen. It’s based on a true story told in a book – I won’t share the title with you because it’s a spoiler about what you’ll see unfold.

Claes Bang (“The Square”) plays Dutch Allied officer Joseph Piller. He has become an investigator who tracks stolen paintings and the Nazis connected to them.

He’s especially curious about how war criminal Herman Goring came to own a famous masterpiece that’s worth a fortune.

Guy Pearce (“Mary Queen of Scots”) plays Han van Meegeren, a suspect. He’s a flamboyant art aficionado who doesn’t always answer questions directly and always seems to be performing.

The movie has a slow start, but it picks up speed once we become acquainted with the background of Piller and van Meegeren. Piller is tormented by his wife’s past and his own, and van Meegeren provides additional psychological torment.

Cinematographer Remi Adefarasin (“Fighting with My Family” gives the film a painterly look all the way through, with some scenes reflecting the kind of light the artist Vermeer used in his masterpieces.

Although this is a capable ensemble all the way around, Pearce is a scene-stealer. He rarely stops talking or moving, and always seems to be hiding something while he loves to remain in the limelight. He keeps his chin lifted slightly, as if to look down upon everyone else, even while he engages those around him with his witty banter.

The last part of the movie is an entertaining courtroom drama in which the suspense compounds with every minute.

You won’t need to know a thing about art to appreciate this work.

3 1/2 out of 4 stars

Rated R for foul language, nudity and some violence.

Running time two hours.

At Cinemark, Davenport.

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