The Last Vermeer (2019): A Carefully Crafted, Yet Forgettable Portrait of an Artistic WWII Conspiracy

“The Last Vermeer” is directed by Dan Friedkin, a producer of films including “The Mule,” “Hot Summer Nights,” and “All the Money in the World.” This film in particular is Friedkin’s directorial debut. It received positive reactions at festivals, and now it is getting a long-awaited theatrical release.

“The Last Vermeer” stars Guy Pearce (Memento, Iron Man 3) and Claes Bang (The Girl in the Spider’s Web, The Square) in a story about an artist who is suspected of selling a valuable painting to the Nazis during World War II.

Going into this movie, this was a rare case where I was fairly blind in regard to the goings on. I did watch a trailer prior to leaving my house, and I do think I have caught said trailer at the theater once or twice during other presentations. But this is a film that I went into knowing very little. One of the questions I am constantly asking myself as I type this review is how vague I should be in regard to my overall thoughts. I will do my best to give a summary of my experience.

Let’s start with the easy part. This movie kicks off and maintains a pace that does not feel quite satisfying. However, it is also a story that becomes more investing of my time and attention as it progresses. It has been some time since I watched this movie, but I would not be surprised if this goes down the route of say “Bloodshot,” which coincidentally also has Guy Pearce playing a character, to become one of my most forgotten movies of 2020. Although based on how it concludes, it is not all bad.

They say that bad endings can ruin good movies. Personally, that is a phrase that I have not continuously realized myself. Whenever I watch a good movie, it is usually consistent from start to finish. This year however, I will admit that I did catch one movie that started horribly but ended up being one of the most charming experiences I have sat through in recent memory. That movie by the way, is “Summerland,” starring Gemma Arterton, and it is available on DVD and for rent. While “The Last Vermeer” is not on the same level of “Summerland” in terms of quality for me, it plays out in a similar manner. “The Last Vermeer” starts off rather dull. In fact, as of writing this review, it has almost been a couple weeks since first experiencing “The Last Vermeer” and I almost barely even remember the beginning. Where it picks up is around the second half, because we get into the nitty gritty of the story and we get to witness quite the court case. Towards the end of the film, I was hooked, and it made this true event worth telling on the screen. The journey to get there however might end up being forgotten.

Let’s talk about Claes Bang (left). Claes Bang is not the most well known actor working today, but I want to emphasize him in this review partially because he’s one of the two leads, and this movie may signify a rabbit hole for the actor. One of the concerns I have for this movie is how it could outline Bang’s future. Claes Bang is not a bad actor by any means. I say this despite having only seen him in one other project aside from this one, specifically “The Burnt Orange Heresy.” Now, “The Burnt Orange Heresy” for those of you who do not know is a film about an art critic (Bang) recruited by a dealer to steal a painting. Now I do not know Claes Bang personally, and maybe he enjoys doing these art-centered movies, but I feel like if he continues having roles like the ones he’s getting, he could risk getting typecast in the future. Granted, we have examples of typecasting that work. Samuel L. Jackson often gets cast in roles that encourage him to shout the word “motherf*cker” so all the people of Uranus can hear it. Maybe I am overreacting, but as solid of an actor I think Claes Bang is, I think it would be interesting to see him take in another type of project. Yes, he’s done stuff like “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” in the past, and he’s even played Dracula in the BBC/Netflix series “Dracula.” I just wonder what Bang’s future holds because for all I know, it could continuously involve art movies. But if you want me to be frank about Bang’s performance in “The Last Vermeer,” I liked his character at times, I think he did a good job as his respective role, and he has great chemistry with Guy Pearce.

Speaking of Guy Pearce, I think the makeup and costuming department did a phenomenal job at making Pearce’s character jump off the screen. I have not seen all of Guy Pearce’s work, but I have witnessed some of it like “Memento,” “Iron Man 3,” and “Bedtime Stories.” This is not Guy Pearce, it is another… guy.

*rimshot*

Guy Pearce in this film feels less like Guy Pearce and more like an artist trying to pull of a lifelong Albert Einstein impression, and he does a pretty good job with it. Again, major props have to go to the costuming and makeup departments for pulling off how the character looks. Guy Pearce portrays the art dealer known as Han van Meegeren, and having searched for older photos of him, he looks the part. The Oscars, should they happen next year, is probably going to take place during April. We still have some time to determine whether this performance will hold up, but I would not mind seeing Pearce get an acting nomination.

Unfortunately, however, this movie is probably going to suffer from a lack of replay value, at least from me. It will probably get more than one watch from others, but this feels like a one and done flick, despite how there are some good things in it. But a barely investing beginning and exciting climax did not do it for me. I will say, this is a fascinating story, but I wonder if I would have had more fun researching it through Google as opposed to watching it in a film like this. This is Dan Friedkin’s directorial debut, so I am curious to see what he does in the future in regards to directing, but I just hope it has a greater oomph factor than “The Last Vermeer.”

In the end, “The Last Vermeer” is not half bad. You can watch it, but I would say there are better options out there if a theater is open near you. Go watch “Freaky.” Go watch “Honest Thief.” These may not be the best movies ever, but they are fun times. I liked “The Last Vermeer,” but I just wish it had a greater impact on me. Pearce and Bang are great actors and I would not mind seeing them collaborate on another project in the future, but I hope it is more investing than this one. I am going to give “The Last Vermeer” a 6/10.

“The Last Vermeer” is now playing exclusively in theaters wherever they are open.

Thanks for reading this review! I have some more reviews coming your way including for “Half Brothers,” now playing in theaters, and “Mank,” which is available in select cinemas and Netflix. I am also planning on watching “The Midnight Sky,” directed by George Clooney, which is now in theaters, but will be available on Netflix starting December 23rd. Also, I have obtained a pass to an online screening of STX’s upcoming film, “Greenland,” starring Gerard Butler. That film will be available on premium VOD starting December 18th, and I plan to have my review up sometime around the film’s release. If you want to see all this content and more, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and give my Facebook page a like! I want to know, did you see “The Last Vermeer?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite example of typecasting? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s