Considering that this year's Toronto International Film Festival exceeded expectations, it came as no surprise that a dusted-off 19th century classic would do the same. Instead of reinventing Great Expectations, Charles Dickens' rags-to-riches tale, director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) handles the classic with great care, giving it vibrant new life.
Contrary to so many other recent Dickens adaptatitions, this one doesn't feel arthritic in the least. In fact, Great Expectations is an expertly paced two hours, following the generational fortunes and misfortunes of Pip, the poor young orphan who redefines the word "gentleman." David Nicholls' script envelopes the Dickens tale as a mystery, and Newell negotitates the twists and turns with a wonderful cast, including Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter and Robbie Coltrane, who all worked with the director in the Harry Potter franchise. And as Pip, Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) never leans toward melodrama, but instead offers the leading character as a flawed champion.
Does the world really need another cinematic treatise of Dickens? Quite surprisingly, the answer is a resounding yes.