Great Expectations, shamefully, is the only Dickens novel I have read, once in school and again more recently.
Surprisingly ahead of its time in a lot of ways, it’s an excellent book, filled with so many characters, all of which have a massive amount of depth (including the minor characters) and enough twists and turns to keep the reader enthralled throughout.
David Lean’s 1946 film adaptation is enjoyable but doesn’t really do the book justice in that it shies away from the darkness and overly romanticises the relationship between Pip and Estella, changing the ending of the book completely.
This new adaptation, directed by Mike Newell, who also directed Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire and brings along a lot of the cast with him on this film, surprised me massively. The marketing for this film hasn’t done it any justice at all and it’s a shame that this will be overlooked and overshadowed by the final Twilight film.
From the very beginning where we are introduced to Pip on the Kentish Marshes, Mike Newell does a great job in creating the dark atmosphere of the book, capturing you and bringing you into the film completely. These beginning scenes in particularly are shot so well, with the sweeping and mysterious landscapes taking on a life and character of their own before we are thrust into the madness of 19th Century London.
I was surprised and so pleased at just how much this film embraces the book, more so than any other adaptation I’ve seen and it was great to see more of Wemmick and the Aged parent and the scene with Miss Havisham and the fire, scenes which were missed from David Lean’s version.
Jeremy Irvine is excellent as Pip and his performance here is much better than that in War Horse and his transformation into a gentleman is subtle and effortless. He has great chemistry with Holliday Granger’s Estella and it was easy to buy into their relationship.
Ralph fiennes is amazing as Magwitch and is almost unrecognisable in his beginning scenes, playing him as slightly sympathetic but with an edge, the way it should be. He also throws in a Voldermort scream at one point which defiantly gets him extra points.
Helena Bonham Carter plays Helena Bonham Carter once again which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Younger and less corpse like than Dickens had intended however, I think hers is the only wrong casting in the film.
The rest of the supporting cast give solid performances and Jason Flemyng’s portrayal of Joe Gargery is one of my favourites in the film.
I can’t stress enough how good this film is. I went into it with my doubts, thinking it would never trump David Lean’s version but actually it blew it out of the water. It moves at such a quick pace and yet seems to cram more into its two hours than any of the other adaptations.
Great Expectations to me has always been a thriller above all else and for any men who have not read the book and think it as a typical romantic novel, there is plenty of action and excitement to keep them satisfied.
Mike Newell has done some very good work with this film and in many ways was perfect for it, already having experience with Harry Potter in making a family film with a darkness to it. The performances are strong throughout and you are more than likely to get much more drama, romance and thrills with this than you would with another certain adaptation with sparkly vampires.
Whether you’ve read the book or not, you will not be disappointed by this film and despite shying away from Dickens’ original ending, this film is a pretty flawless adaptation.