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Great Expectations More at IMDbPro »

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77 out of 81 people found the following review useful:

An Excellent Version of the Classic Novel

Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
2 May 2002

Few directors have ever matched David Lean's ability to bring great literary works to life on film, and this is one of his best productions. The Dickens novel itself is so good that even routine film adaptations of it are usually quite watchable, but this version is exceptional, with atmosphere, settings, photography, and characters that do full justice to the original. From the very beginning, with a wonderful realization of the graveyard scene, you are drawn into the world of Pip and the other characters, and feel that you can understand their concerns and dilemmas.

One of the things that makes "Great Expectations" such a classic story is that it adds some real depth to Dickens's usual slightly exaggerated characters, so that they are both memorable and thought-provoking. Characters such as Miss Havisham and Magwitch are interesting in their own right, besides serving as vital influences on Pip's life. Here the fine cast and directing help to realize the potential of the characters, making for an interesting story that also has some things to say. John Mills brings out Pip's innocence and earnestness very believably, and the supporting cast works quite well too. Some of them seem to be almost exactly what Dickens would have envisioned, such as Jean Simmons as the young Estella and Francis Sullivan as Jaggers (a role he also played in an earlier version).

This is exactly what a film version of a classic book should be, keeping the most important themes and events from the story and using the visuals to bring its world to life. It's an excellent movie that is enjoyable and nicely done in every respect.

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55 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

Never read the book, loved the film....

Author: Keith G from Cambridgeshire, UK
25 December 2004

I came to watch this film with no knowledge of the book, having never read it and only the vaguest knowledge of a couple of the characters - Magwitch the escaped convict and the jilted Miss Haversham. I had absolutely no idea how events would turn out or what would happen to the characters involved. Good for me - no baggage!!

Taken, then, in its own right I can say that I was quite staggered at the overall quality of this film in every respect and from the very opening shots: The acting, cinematography, costumes, sets, lighting, effects etc. etc. were all perfect and gave no hint of the film's vintage. Surprise surprise (or maybe no surprise), the storyline was quite superb - the ripe 'Dickensian' dialogue was a pleasure to hear and the plot was intelligent and interesting while maintaining a steady pace throughout.

All in all, a very pleasant experience for me and I'm glad it eventually found its way onto my radar!

So - a timeless masterpiece in my opinion and well worth watching by anyone looking for a break from modern CGI-laden disaster/action movies or who do not want to see yet another instance of the Americans saving the world from extra-terrestrial menace.

Nine out of ten without a moment's hesitation....

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58 out of 75 people found the following review useful:

A great film

Author: jonomichel from Sydney, Australia
21 June 2002

When David Lean directed Great Expectations, he used black and white, even though color was available. From the very first scene, you see that the black and white brings out a quality in the film, that wouldn't have been achieved with color. The black and white makes the film seem simpler than it really is. Great Expectations is a film, which ends very nicely for the characters, but their journeys throughout the film are not.

Pip sees himself for the rude snob he became, and Estella prides herself for being a heartless, ruthless bitch (for lack of a better word), and Miss Havisham is cold, and simply out to destroy men. The only person in this film who is not arrogant, or evil is the simple Joe.

I am far from a film expert. Infact, I only watched this movie because I am studying Great Expectations at school. However, after hours of in-depth discussion, there is so much more to this film than meets the eye. My favorite scenes are those in the first quarter of an hour. Lean's use of Silhouettes gives the search for the two escaped convicts a feel of war, and creates an atmosphere of tension very well. It also introduces the key characters in the story excellently.

As far as the story goes, I found it much easier on the head to watch than the book was to read. While it wasn't close in length to books i've read before (I think it's shorter than my little brother's "Harry Potter" books), it took me close to 30 hours to read. The movie compacts the majority of the book into 2 hours of film. The exclusion of characters like Orlick I have no problem with, as they are nearly completely irrelevant to the story. Lean explains the death of Pip's sister in less than 10 seconds, while the book takes somewhere in the region of 10 pages.

The acting is excellent. Alec Guinness was the only actor I had heard of, and that was only thanks to George Lucas. John Mills was interesting to watch, and after seeing the movie, I didn't know weather to like Pip for how he ended up, or to see him for the nasty person he had changed into (and come back from).

Only when watching it for the second time, did i realise the thought behind the direction. When Magwitch reappears, the atmosphere from their first meeting is created exactly; even the wind sounds the same. The sets were also incredible, and remade 19th century England perfectly. Ms. Havisham's `Statis House' was particularly memorable for me, as it is exactly how I pictured it from reading.

David Lean's Great Expectations set a benchmark in 1946 for great movies. It was nominated and won several Oscars, and is still enjoyed today. Every aspect of this film was enjoyable, it tells a great story, and if you look closer, you will appreciate the art of film making a little more, as I have.

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42 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

A very nearly perfect film!

Author: mark2-1
25 June 2005

This is very close to being one of the most perfect films ever made.

Every actor performs at his best - making every word and inflection count - and the script is perfect, the direction is perfect and the photography is excellent.

I am astounded by what Antony Wager, the young actor portraying Pip as a youngster, is able to deliver.

I only have one "but" - while Jean Simmons is perfect as the young Estella, I find Valerie Hobson - as the only member of the entire cast - miscast as the older Estella. I have researched this a little and have since found that she was married to the film's producer.

I wonder whom David Lean had been planning to use? I have been thinking about which actress, amongst those of the period who would have been available, would have been good for the role. The obvious choice is Vivien Leigh and another is Margaret Leighton.

Two years later David Lean made Oliver Twist, which, while good, is a very different kind of film. I don't really feel it lives up to the quality of Great Expectations.

I have a daughter in her early 20's. She and I saw Great Expectations on TV years ago and she still has very fond memories of it today and rushed to borrow the DVD I just purchased. She otherwise abhors "old films" and in particular those in B+W.

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41 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

Great version of the Dickens novel...beautiful B&W photography...

Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
28 May 2001

The Dickens novel is given classic treatment in David Lean's "Great Expectations". The opening scene is so atmospheric it sets the tone for the convoluted story to follow. The earlier scenes with young Pip are the most enjoyable for me--especially those involving Estella (Jean Simmons) and Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt).

Brilliant performances from all concerned. John Mills is wholly satisfying as the adult Pip and Valerie Hobson as the adult Estella--but it is Martita Hunt's Miss Havisham, sitting among the ruined finery of a wedding that never took place, everything exactly the way it was on that fateful day--and waging war on men ever since--that lingers in the memory.

Some of the best black and white photography seen until that time and an absorbing story with twists and surprises that have logical explanations. Compares favorably with the other great British film, "Oliver Twist" and, by all means, recommended viewing.

Not only worthy of its Best Picture nomination, it should have won over "Gentleman's Agreement" which now seems preachy and artificial.

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31 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

A true classic

Author: ellkew from London
23 May 2003

The term 'classic' is often banded about with regard to films but I feel this one does warrant the term. A masterpiece of film-making by one of the best director's to take the chair. From the opening on the flat marshland framed by the hangman's gantry, this is wonderfully atmospheric storytelling of the highest quality which manages to capture the feel of the novel. The inspired touches with the cows muttering to Pip when he takes the stolen food to the convict and the howling wind over London as Pip's past is about to knock on his door, stay in the mind. This film is rich in character and detail. A sumptuous film that is a real treat. I can still, even today, taste the pork pie that Pip steals from the larder and feel his fear as Joe's wife goes to look for it and the sadness as the older Pip is embarrassed by Joe in his upmarket London surroundings and watches his old friend leave London from his living room window. An absolute masterpiece of cinema.

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26 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

A miracle of invention, economy and detail

Author: J. Spurlin from United States
25 January 2007

This adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic novel, directed by David Lean from a script he co-adapted, and photographed by Guy Green, is a miracle of invention, economy and detail. Every piece on every set; every line of dialogue; every gesture and line reading of every actor; every black-and-white frame of this beautiful film seems perfect. Dickens's characters, situations and themes are all vividly dramatized. Pip, Pocket, Joe, Mr. Jaggers, Magwitch and—unforgettably—Miss Havisham, are all here and all ready to move, amuse, frighten and entertain anyone willing to spend time with them.

I haven't read the book since I was thirteen. I vividly remember Miss Havisham, but I don't remember noting the contrast between her and Magwitch, the ex-convict. She becomes bitter and vengeful after a great heartbreak; he becomes great of heart through one small act of kindness. That's what made the movie for me this time; but clearly there's richness to spare for future viewings.

There is so much here not only for Dickens fans, but for anyone who loves movies. I especially liked that shot from Pip's point of view as he becomes sick. It's the kind of crazy effect beloved of filmmakers, too; but I love it not so much for itself, but for being the right shot at the right moment. Some directors hide, others show off, but directors like David Lean know how to do both and know when to do which.

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26 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Another Famous Dickens Book Comes To Life

Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
16 July 2007

As I watched the beginning of this film, I couldn't help but compare the story to the only other Charles Dickens story I was familiar with: Oliver Twist. It looked like it was going to be another story of a nice, respectful boy being abused by nasty adults. However, as soon as the young boy turned into a man, the similarities ended. Poor Oliver had a lot of ups and downs but life was basically pretty good for the boy, "Pip" in "Great Expectations."

Because of that, I didn't think this Dickens tale had the emotional impact of Oliver Twist, but still was great storytelling. The last 20-30 minutes of this film tied so many things together it really made it a satisfying film. From what I just researched, it sounds like the book was a lot harsher story.

My only major complaint with this film is the casting of the lead character, "Pip," as an adult, which involves most of this movie. John Mills looked way too old to be playing a 20-year-old "Pip Pirrip." In truth, he was too old. Mills was 38 when doing this role. They couldn't have found a younger actor? This guy looked and sounded like Ronald Colman, which is fine except Colman never looked 20, either! This is gross miscasting.

At any rate, I enjoyed a number of actors in here, mainly three older ones: Martita Hunt, Findlay Currie and Francis L. Sullivan. Hunt was just great as "Miss Haversham." I found her fascinating in every sentence she delivered, all of which she did while just sitting in a chair. Currie was genuinely frightening in the beginning as the escaped convict "Magwitch." However, what a transformation that man made in this story! Francis L. Sullivan emotes convincingly enough to play the

lawyer "Mr. Jaggers" and be fun to view, too. The rest of the actors were fine, but nothing memorable.

To me, the acting took a back seat to Dickens' story and to the film's cinematography. Knowing David Lean directed this film, that Criterion usually produces nice-looking DVD transfers and that "Oliver Twist" looked fantastic on disc, I was paying as close attention to the cinematography, and I enjoyed it. The story wasn't that intense until the finale, which was very well done. The romance was a bit questionable and is a sad-but-true comment how many people, at least us men, can be "in love" with a shallow woman who offers nothing but good looks. (Speaking of looks, Valerie Hobson pretending to be a little older Jean Simmons in the role of "Estella' is like Margaret Hamilton passing for slightly-older Jennifer Jones. Give me a break!)

Even though the screenplay is softer than the novel, most people say it still captures Dickens' flavor, and few critics had anything but praise for this classic film. Do I prefer this movie over the aforementioned Oliver Twist? No, but only because the latter is the most stunning photographed black-and-white movie I've ever watched. ("Citizen Kane" ranking second.) This is still very good in that category. Lean and cinematographer Guy Green won Oscars for their work here, so you know it's not too shabby.

The combination of Dickens, Lean, Green and a fine cast all make this a classic movie that is certainly recommended. Don't make the mistake of choosing the insipid 1998 version with Ethan Hawke and Gywneth Paltrow. This is the only version you want to see.

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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

a delightful tale with broad appeal (Modern viewers, take note.)

Author: gscheyd from Florida, USA
29 January 2008

As a fan of many so-called classic films, I am nonetheless aware that there is some validity to the criticism that early movies (say, anything before Brando in Streetcar) as a rule have less vitality than their modern counterparts, are formulaic to a fault, and strain the limits of modern attention spans more than can be fully blamed on the viewer. Great Expectations treads miles clear of any of these criticisms, and so I recommend it in particular to anyone who has a general disdain for films that a) were released in the first half of the 20th century and/or b) were shot in black and white. Here is one that can change your mind.

Naturally, given the talents of the author, the plot itself leaves little to be desired. Further, David Lean, his cast, and his crew, have done a splendid job translating Dickens to the screen. This is indeed, as the Criterion Collection folks have classified it, one of the "Great Adaptations." I doubt that there is a better cinematic adaptation of any Dickens novel and am almost certain there is none in which the Dickensian English dialogue flows more pleasantly and naturally. The actors herein deliver Dickens as Olivier himself delivered Shakespeare. Nor is this an unimportant accomplishment; having to spend a couple of hours listening to actors who sound more like they are delivering a series of quotes (though admittedly they are) than that they are actually conversing can be positively unbearable. Indeed I think that's the main thing that people are hitting upon when, with broad brush-strokes, they paint older films as tedious. Great Expectations is the antidote to just this attitude.

If you are a lover of classic films, you have likely already seen this one or will do so regardless of my review, but if, on the other hand, you entertain the possibility of watching Great Expectations with a deep-seated skepticism I implore you to give it a chance. I have every confidence you'll be pleasantly surprised and find yourself drawn into what is, after all, a fascinating story.

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

"You can break his heart!"

Author: theowinthrop from United States
29 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

David Lean's reputation as a first rate director began in the 1940s with a series of films that were mostly small scale but had first rate casts and literate scripts. The most notable were his version of Noel Coward's BLYTHE SPIRIT and Coward's BRIEF ENCOUNTER, but he also did a notable film of Coward's straight play of the period between the World Wars, THIS HAPPY BREED. But you will notice that he concentrated on work by Noel Coward, and while the results were excellent it was limiting to him. Then he did two adaptations of Charles Dickens' OLIVER TWIST and GREAT EXPECTATIONS. These two films were also excellent (despite some controversy about the make-up used by Alec Guiness as Fagin in TWIST). The two Dickens' movies demonstrated that Lean was not tied to only one writer but could do others. Soon he'd do MADELEINE, HOBSON'S CHOICE, SUMMERTIME, and his epics were to come out in the 1960s. He never stopped doing adaptations (DR. ZHIVAGO and his last movie A PASSAGE TO India were great films too). He died in 1991 before making his last film - it would have been an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's masterpiece NOSTROMO.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS is claimed (by most critics) to be Dickens' masterpiece. Like it's proceeding novel A TALE OF TWO CITIES, it is among the shorter full novels of Dickens (only HARD TIMES shorter than these two) at about 600 pages each. Dickens tried to study the effect of inheritance on a human being. Philip Pirrup ("Pip" - Anthony Wager and later John Mills) is an orphan with only one older sister (Mrs. Joe Gargary) and lives with his sister, her husband the village blacksmith (Sir Bernard Miles) and Biddy (Eileen Erskine). Despite the harshness of his sister (who boasts she brings up Pip, Biddy, and even Joe "by hand", Pip has a decent life - Joe and Biddy are warm to him. One day, when visiting the graves of his parents, Pip is surprised by an escaped convict. The convict threatens Pip, who returns with food and supplies for him. Pip doesn't say anything to the anyone about the convict, but just helps him. However, the convict is caught - but he realizes Pip had been true to him. He thanks the boy before being taken away.

Some years later Pip is invited to the home of an eccentric wealthy woman named Mrs. Haversham (Martita Hunt). He is taken there and meets her lawyer, Mr. Jaggers (Francis Sullivan), a young boy (who we later learn is one Herbert Pocket - Alec Guiness plays him as a young man) and a proud, beautiful young girl named Estella (played by Jean Simmons here; later by Valerie Hobson). Pip is to come several times a week to play cards with Estella (who keeps putting him down, calling him a common boy), to the amusement of Mrs. Haversham. The old lady was the victim of betrayal when getting married, and hates the world as a result. When Estella complains about Pip being so common, Mrs. Haversham whispers to her, "You can break his heart!"

One day, Jaggers tells Pip and Joe that Pip has gotten a patron - he is to be brought up to be a gentleman by an unknown benefactor. Jaggers says that he has "great expectations" for Pip's future as a result - hence the title of the story.

That's the background. Mills slowly turns from incredulous type into a terrible snob - even making poor Joe and Biddy feel out of place in his presence. He pursues Estella, who despite his rise still considers him a poor boy. He also considers that Mrs. Haversham is his benefactor - but he is not sure. Then comes the shock - he meets the real benefactor (Finley Currie as Abel Magwich) and discovers that great wealth does not come from "gentleman" all the time.

Much has been cut out by Lean in his script. A subplot involving an attack on Mrs. Joe by an poor farm hand named Orlick is not included - as is a moment of melodrama aimed at Pip by Orlick later on. There is not enough about Pip's rival for Estella, a super snob named Bentley Drummle (Torin Thatcher). The problem of transporting of criminals to Australia and the rules regarding their returning is not really discussed in the film. Instead it is the effect of wealth on people that is the center of the film version, and the film is stronger as a result.

Mills had one of his best early roles as the hero who discovers that there are fine human beings who don't need money. Simmons and Hobson are properly selfish as Estella*. Guiness is pleasant as Pip's closest friend (but the role is not as rich as his Fagin in TWIST). As was pointed out Sullivan gives a sturdy performance as a man in a corrupt profession in a corrupt world, who tries to help people. If not as great as OLIVER TWIST was, it was Lean's fine first attempt at telling Dickens on screen

{*Dickens originally did not intend for Pip and Estella to end up together - there is a one page conclusion still extant that shows them going their separate ways. The novel and film have the ending that Dickens added at the recommendation of his friend Edward Bulwer - Lytton.)

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