IoS film review 2: Great Expectations
Sightseers
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
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little