Faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens' mightiest novel, with Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham and Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch. Directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral). Now playing nationwide.
Surprisingly just the second proper adaptation of the Dickens classic and staple of university Stage 1 English, this lavishly costumed, supremely cast period drama hits all the themes, twists and turns without ever really providing anything memorable.
Bonham Carter is suitably vampiric as the decaying Miss Havisham, Fiennes tones down the Voldermort scares just a notch to bring to life Magwitch and Jason Flemyng is excellent as the simple blacksmith and father figure Joe. However, having been outacted and outclassed by the horse in his last role, Irvine is actually outshone by his younger brother Toby here, while the excellently monikered Grainger struggles to overcome Estella’s fundamental one-dimensionalism.
Extreme close ups and point of view shots heighten the thriller aspects of the tale, but the opening scene, so iconic in Lean’s black and white version, feels muted in Newell’s pale grey-green palette. Richard Hartley’s (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers) score is a virtually ever-present guide to the action without really striking a sustained emotional chord, but what the film perhaps really lacks is more of Dickens’ wicked humour and colourful figures of fun (David Walliams’ effete Pumblechook). Like Polanski’s stab at Oliver Twist, this faithfully retells the story, but forgets to include its heart and timeless resonance.