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

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
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.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living