Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Great Expectations Blu-ray Review

From the director of Four Weddings and a Funeral comes this fresh cinematic realization of Charles Dickens’ beloved novel starring Oscar Nominees Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes. After an orphaned, blacksmith’s apprentice inherits a fortune from an anonymous benefactor, he moves to London – and towards a promising future. But the machinations of a bitter heiress (Bonham Carter) seem to put the beautiful young woman (Holliday Grainger) he loves forever out of his reach. This “satisfying” (David Hiltbrand, Philadelphia Inquirer) drama featuring vibrant cinematography and lush costumes also stars Jeremy Irvine, Jason Flemyng and Robbie Coltrane.
Film (4 out of 5 stars)
In the early 1800s a young boy named Pip is accosted in a graveyard by a dirty man, starving and in shackles. The man, an escaped convict tells the boy to bring him food, drink and something to remove the chains with. Pip is an orphan who lives with his older sister and her husband, Joe. He returns the next day and gives the man the food and file to remove the chains. Later that day, during Christmas dinner, soldiers arrive in search of the convict. The men of the house, and Pip, leave with the soldiers searching for the man. They find him engaged in a fight with another convict and are recaptured.

Later, Pip is invited to the home of Miss Havisham, the local shut in. Many years ago, Miss Havisham’s heart was broken by her fiancée and since then, she has lived in seclusion, surrounded by her wedding décor and in her wedding dress. Once in the home, he becomes a playmate of Estella, Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter, whom Miss Havisham uses to break Pip’s heart. When Miss Havisham realizes that Pip loves Estella, she dismisses him and he is no longer welcome in the home.

As Pip grows older, he becomes the apprentice of Joe, who is the local blacksmith. One day, a lawyer arrives and tells him that he has a mysterious benefactor and he will receive the inheritance on two conditions: he must move to London and join society, and he may never ask or try to find out who the benefactor is. Pip, thinking it is Miss Havisham goes to the house, where he finds Estella has returned from her studies abroad. Pip is then tasked to escort Estella to London, where they now move within the same circle.

After a few years, Pip has spent all his money and is deeply in debt. He returns home one night to find the escaped convict from his childhood in his living room. Magwitch reveals to him that he is the benefactor and that he became wealthy after escaping to New South Wales. He has returned to London in secret and tells Pip that he had a daughter whom he was told had died. Pip plans an escape by boat, but during the escape, they are caught and Magwitch ends up killing another convict. 

He is tried and sentenced to hang, but dies before the sentence can be carried out. Before he dies, Pip reveals to him that his daughter is alive and was adopted by Miss Havisham. After Pip learns of Magwitch’s history, and the reason why Miss Havisham is so strange and why she’s played with his heart all these years, he goes to confront her. 

Great Expectations is one of Charles Dickens’ most beloved books, and easily my favorite of his books (that I’ve read). I saw the 1990s adaptation with Ethan Hawke and thought it was terrible. This adaptation is far superior and more true to the book. Ralph Fiennes is a great Magwitch and as I sat and watched, I kept wondering why he seems to be on a Charles Dickens kick, only to find out Great Expectations was filmed before The Invisible Woman. Holliday Granger was a wonderful Estella and Helena Bonham Carter was a perfect Miss Havisham.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
The 1080p wide-screen 2.35:1 aspect ratio of Great Expectations was very good. There were a few places where the scene was really dark and it was difficult to see, but it was nothing that caused me to have to go back. Colors were sharp, especially the colors worn by Estella. The scenes outdoors were really natural and crisp and it was easy to think you were looking out the window at the scenery. Great Expectations, in addition to being a wonderful story, was a visually stunning film.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
The English DTS-HD master audio 5.1 presentation of Great Expectations was wonderful. While not perfect, the dialogue was clear and though some of the dialogue sounded mumbled, the sound was good. Background sound blended well with the dialogue and nothing was too overwhelming to hear.
Extras (2 out of 5 stars)
I was a bit disappointed with the number of special features. I felt this section could have been more robust.
  • Great Expectations: Premiere This is a look at the premiere of the film, with scenes from the movie interspersed throughout. I enjoyed watching the actors arrive and interact with each other and fans and listening to the interviews with the cast and crew.
  • Great Expectations: Trailer – The official trailer for the film.
Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
Great Expectations is a story more people can relate to, if not themselves, but someone they know. It’s a story that throughout time has only gotten better and this adaptation was a very good version. It’s truer to the story, keeps the viewer engaged and I enjoyed watching it. Any fan of Charles Dickens will enjoy this film and I will definitely watch it again.

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