Release Date: September 23rd, 2005 (NYC- Loews 68th and Broadway)
September 30th, 2005 (Nationwide) by TriStar Pictures.
The Cast: Ben Kingsley, Barney Clark, Jamie Foreman, Harry Eden, Leanne Rowe, Edward Hardwicke.
Directed by Roman Polanski.
BASIC PREMISE: Oliver Twist (Clark) is an orphan who is kidnapped from the home of Mr.Brownlow (Hardwicke) by the abusive Fagin (Kingsley) and Bill Sykes (Foreman). Based on the novel by Charles Dickens.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Roman Polanski envisions the world of Oliver Twist with plenty of imagination and detail. The opening scenes show just how important imagery is to Polanksi with beautiful hand-drawings, one of which gradually comes to life and color. The colors throughout the film are interesting because they are not bright--mostly browns, grays, whites, and blacks which reflect the dark, sad tone of most of the film. Then there's the amazing costume design that really brings out the feel of the time period. Barney Clark, a relatively unknown actor, plays the title character of Oliver pretty well. It is fortunate that a well-known young actor wasn't cast instead because that would decrease the film's realism. Ben Kingsley is also perfectly cast as the mean-spirited, crazy Fagin. The make-up artist makes Kingsley barely recognizable with all his messy hair and an ugly, wrinkled face. He gives a very Oscar-worthy performance, especially when his character becomes crazier. There is plenty of plot suspense as Mr.Brownlow searches for Oliver's kidnappers while Fagin and Sykes try to hide him. There are two real surprises: one is that there is a gentle touch of humor throughout the film, particularly in the beginning during Oliver's brief trial for allegedly being a pickpocket. The other surprise is that Polanski makes the story much darker and even bloodier than expected, which makes it inappropriate for little kids. There is still plenty for adults to enjoy, especially with all of the intricate visuals that should garner this film at least a nomination in Best Art Direction.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: The overall message in this film is that there are good, kind people in a world that seems cruel and unfair. Also, Fagin is such a complex character because he is neither entirely bad nor entirely good; Sykes is truly the bad guy and the way he treats Oliver is very heartbreaking. Also, although not uplifting, this film does shed light on how deceptive people can be.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
THE BOTTOM LINE: One of the Polanski's best films! A beautifully shot and heartbreaking work of art. Ben Kingsley gives an Oscar-caliber performance!
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "o" Menu