IoS film review 2: Great Expectations
The Hunt

Mike Newell's 'Great Expectations' crams in the detail, but blink and you'll miss the drama

The new adaptation of Great Expectations is something of a Harry Potter reunion. It's directed by Mike Newell, who made Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and in key roles it has four of the regulars from the series. First, there's a feral Ralph Fiennes as the escaped convict, Magwitch, who seizes upon the young Pip (Toby Irvine) on the Kentish marshes. Then there's Helena Bonham Carter, doing her usual queenly wafting as Miss Havisham, and looking a lot more curvaceous than the walking corpse described by Dickens. When grown Pip (played by Toby's big brother, Jeremy Irvine from War Horse) is plonked into London's high society, there's Robbie Coltrane as Jaggers the lawyer, while Jessie Cave (Ron Weasley's pre-Hermione girlfriend) plays Biddy, who is left behind in Kent.

Those aren't the only Hogwarts connections, though. More importantly, Great Expectations follows the trend set by the Harry Potter franchise of packing in as much of the source novel as it can, even if that means that dozens of scenes and characters get nothing more than a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance. Unlike the directors of the recent, more daring deconstructions of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, Newell and his screenwriter, David Nicholls (One Day), have gone for a literal, scene-by-scene translation of the book, with very little of the streamlining undertaken by David Lean for the classic 1946 version. It's a tactic that pays dividends for a while, in that it's a pleasure to see so many of Dickens's characters brought to richly coloured life. But, towards the end, you might as well be reading a synopsis. Fiennes and Coltrane take it in turns to recite pages of exposition, and there's a new twist or flashback every 30 seconds, with no time in between to absorb how it might affect Pip or Estella, his imperious object of desire (Holliday Grainger). It's ironic that while the last Harry Potter novel got two films to itself, a novel that really deserves that treatment has to squeeze itself into one.

With his first two films, Ben Wheatley established himself as one of our most exciting directors, especially if you weigh up how much entertainment value you get per pound of the budget. His trick for turning lead into gold is to distil glamorous, cinematic sub-genres into the most mundane and Office-like of British containers, and then add a dash of spooky surrealism. So far, he's worked his alchemy on the crime-family drama (Down Terrace) and the hitman thriller (Kill List), and now, with Sightseers, he's taken on the Bonnie and Clyde-style road movie. Typically, his loved-up serial killers, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, aren't burning rubber through the Mojave desert in an open-topped Chevy, they're pootling around the north of England on a caravanning holiday. Bundled up in cagoules, and bickering in their Midlands accents, they tramp through drizzly woods, drizzly abbeys and drizzly tram museums, occasionally murdering people who get on their nerves.

The juxtaposition of the anti-heroes' cosy ordinariness and their tendency to bash strangers over the head with a rock can be very funny at times, so Sightseers should be Wheatley's most commercially successful release. But it's also his weakest. Lowe and Oram, who wrote the screenplay, first performed as these characters in sketch shows, and Sightseers can seem more like a long, rambling sketch than a fully formed feature film, without the plotting or complexity to avoid the aimless dreariness of a genuine rainy holiday. Still, like Michael Winterbottom's The Trip, its views of the North's phenomenal scenery should encourage a few viewers to take a British staycation, even if they risk encountering the odd downpour, and a pair of homicidal maniacs.

Fourteen years on from Festen, Thomas Vinterberg returns with The Hunt, a parable about a nursery teacher (Mads Mikkelson) in an apparently close-knit rural Danish community who's wrongly accused of abusing his young charges. Mikkelson is a past master at portraying wretched discomfort, but not every element in the film is so convincing. No one, for instance, stops to ask how, when and where he is supposed to have mistreated so many children. Vinterberg is in such haste to lampoon the amateurism of the nursery staff and the myopia of the parents that The Hunt slides from a sober drama to a satirical comedy, losing some of its unsettling power along the way.

Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'