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Nineteen Eighty-Four
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Reviews & Ratings for
1984 More at IMDbPro »Nineteen Eighty-Four (original title)

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Index 156 reviews in total 

224 out of 272 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant adaption of a classic novel.

10/10
Author: Skeptic459 (nren006@ec.auckland.ac.nz) from Auckland, New Zealand.
30 December 2003

Despite what one reviewer states here, 1984 is an extremely important literary work. It explains to the reader what the ultimate facist state would be like. This story is never more important than now, with the world in crisis. It is an absolute must that people read or see 1984. Other films have been made about fascism. One of the most notable examples being Pier Pasolini's Salo. But the problem is hardly anyone is going to see that except for weirdo's or film buffs. This is because of the graphic nature of the film. Besides, Salo was explaining the inherently depraved, decadent nature of fascism. Orwell's 1984 explains the mechanisms that invoke totalitarianism.

John Hurt is excellent as the main character. I am quite a fan. The film is also very well made. The bleakness of the book is perfectly captured by the director. You feel sympathy for the characters even though they seem far away because they appear so weary, yet willing to hope. Transcendence is hinted at when there is a scene where Hurt looks out and sees a wilderness instead of a prison. Hurt's character, Winston looks like he is about half dead! You really hope that Winston and Julia can pull off a passionate love affair. Although you know that it is doomed and is more of an act of rebellion against big brother than anything else. The setting is a land that is half destroyed because of the constant wars. The wars being yet another method of control. They tell us in psychology that in war, depression and other similar disorders actually go down! Interesting eh? The start where everyone sits watching the screens and begins to scream at images of the enemy. This is a great moment in the film that shows a kind of utter conformity through extreme social norms. The most effective form of brainwashing.

The problem with the film, like the book, is that people will find it too bleak and horrific to really appreciate it. It is depressing but this is the horror of totalitarianism. The material is not intended to be a walk in the park. One of the most striking and horrific instances of 1984 is the 2+2 does not equal 4 scene. The torture and brainwashing too achieve utter obedience. Richard 'my voice competes with Orson Welles' Burton, who normally pontificates and chews up the scenery is remarkably restrained here. This restraint is the key to a very good performance. These torture scenes are horrific and Hurt really shines. This guy should have got an Oscar! The scenes had me gasping...When I originally read the book it took a while for me to get over the rats. EWWWWWWW!

Looking at the overall rating of 1984 I am just totally surprised that this film has such a low rating. Maybe people would rate the novel exactly the same way because of the material. This brings me too my other quibble. The film does not TOTALLY cover all of the novels themes. In fact, although Suzanna Hamilton puts on a good performance, her character is not completely captured. Viewers must remember that literature and cinema are two completely different mediums. There is no such thing as a 100 percent adaption. Therefore you must rate the film on the usual cinematic features. But the main thing is how well the overall message of the story was transmitted. This film powerfully demonstrates Orwell's message!

What is weird is one of the reviewers here states that they did not like the nudity. Well, I'm guessing the director was going for a Adam and Eve state with their being naked out in the woods. This is obviously the complete opposite of the unnatural state they have to live in. It does not cheapen the film and points more to the reviewers own repressed desires. Reaction formation perhaps? Besides no one is going to get this for naked bodies when porn is so freely available from your local video store!

Consider how relevant this story is. How propaganda and public relations has never been more prevalent. How public relations has overtaken journalism, causing journalism to become more and more watered down. How the political economy of the media is now being hugely influenced by being based in a monopoly economy. A few now control the flow of information for the general population in western nations. This is not conspiracy theory, this is fact. True investigative journalism is at an all time low and the media itself is in a shocking state of affairs. Like everything in our capitalist system, it is controlled by money. Ever read Michel Foucault? Dominant hegemonies, discourse analysis, bla bla bla. I don't want to get all crusty and academic here. But Rupert Murdoch is rubbing his hands together. Time and time again, the United States has been shown to be patently false about why they engaged in conflict with Iraq. Just read John Pilger! Yet many Americans supported the conflict. Even believing chemical weapons were used on American troops, when no such event took place! Why? Because they were manipulated by a sophisticated propaganda machine.

Knowledge is power. That is why in 1984 language is being systematically destroyed. This denial of language is the denial of thought itself. Reality is then more easily shaped by the oppressor. Remember dictators, such as Pol Pot destroy the educated first. This is why the film and book are so important, they are still very RELEVANT! In fact I think the progression of western society will become a mixture of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and 1984. Either way we are being manipulated and controlled and these books show you how. America has the 'Patriot Act' that was rushed through congress although human rights groups had many serious doubts about the act. In New Zealand we have a Government that is similary becoming too involved in the regulation of peoples lives. BIG BROTHER IS STILL ALIVE!

I give this film a 10 and think the last scene with Hurt looking so haunted in the bar/coffee place was awesome! GREAT, GREAT BOOK! GREAT, GREAT FILM!

I have had a bit of a rant here...But hey I really like the book and this version of the film! So why not? This is a film for rebels!

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152 out of 177 people found the following review useful:

Comments on Comments

9/10
Author: sm from usa
9 March 2004

I really have only one thing to comment on. Most of the other reviewers have stated just about everything about this wonderfully gritty, dark, foreboding movie that still remains an eerie parallel to our lives today, especially in the last 2 years...

But I'm confused by the number of people who have commented that claim to be put off by "the gratuitous nudity" by the two characters of Winston and Julia. Given the fact that everything in this society--waking up, food, habits, desires, work, workers, even the underwear and overalls--is so uniform, has it occurred to viewers that being nude was the only link to identity that these characters had? Everything in their world depends, thrives on sameness. Without clothes, everyone is unique. The two lovers were already in dire conditions by committing the sin of feeling for another human being, let alone carnally but in the heart. And they had to deceive and pretend and go through the motions of the dutiful cogs in the Big Brother wheel. But their only shared peace and comfort was their sacred time alone, and in love. They had finally found their own identities through loving each other. Their nudity was merely symbolic of that. In that sense, their union and expressions of that union only becomes more fragile, beautiful and honest, in such a heartless, cold, indifferent world.

May that be truly said of us, and all of us...

OK, that out of the way...one of the most gritty, realistic, honest translations ever to grace the screen. Wouldn't have changed a thing. Highly, highly recommended, along with the original 1955 version of "Animal Farm". Perfect double-feature for a somber, thoughtful evening's viewing.

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106 out of 129 people found the following review useful:

One of the great screen adaptations

Author: quixoboy from Ottawa, Ontario
31 October 2003

Merely a few days after finishing my read of George Orwell's fantastic 1948 novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four", I was immediately keen on looking to rent the modern film version, "1984" - filmed, appropriately enough, not only during the actual YEAR of 1984, but also during the exact same short span of months that the story took place in. This, to me, is a prime example of perfect, and unbelievably well-timed, brilliance. A picture based on such complex, prophetic, and well-known material could have turned out to be a complete disaster (which it certainly had potential for, judging from the horrendous-looking DVD cover); thankfully, however, I was not disappointed.

"1984" is probably one of the most, if not THE most, masterful transitions from book to movie I have ever seen. Easily, its most impressive aspect was its phenomenal accuracy, attention to detail, etc. In other words, this film was FAITHFUL, in every sense of the word, to its source material. One can't give such a statement about films these days.

Amazing casting, terrific musical score, and mind-blowing sets, cinematography, and direction, "1984" is surely a unique treasure, and one that still retains the same timeless messages even decades since its release.

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112 out of 144 people found the following review useful:

"We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness..."

10/10
Author: jawills from Vancouver, Canada
23 May 2000

Michael Radford's utterly superlative film of Orwell's famed novel may well be the greatest cinematic adaptation of a major literary source ever -- and it stands out as one of the most memorable British films of the past thirty years. Full credit is due to cinematographer Roger Deakins who shoots everything in grainy, washed-out, desaturated colors adding to the picture's atmosphere of wistful yet austere, dream-like strangeness. The modern London settings -- with their cobblestone streets, shabby, dilapidated buildings, desolate fields, rubble-strewn alleyways, and forbidding, blackened Gothic-Victorian façades and hints of minimalist fascist architecture -- resemble a Depression-era housing project after the Luftwaffe. And Dominic Muldowney's score, with its martial clarion calls, bombastic church-organ blasts, and swelling choral leitmotiv of `Oceania, 'tis for thee,' has a mixture of Wagnerian grandeur and Bach-like religiosity about it. All the while, the bizarre, mantra-like drones of the much-maligned Eurythmics soundtrack rises and falls, weaving in and out of the narrative like so many subconscious banshee wails.

Radford treats the book's premise not as a sci-fi flight of fantasy or grim prophecy but rather as the world of 1948 seen through a glass darkly -- a kind of medieval morality play for the post-totalitarian age. There is less emphasis on the novel's musty, well-worn-and-endlessly-picked-over polemical import and more focus on the stark human element, and indeed, the actors bear such uncanny resemblance to Orwell's descriptions they practically seem born for their roles.

With his quiet, brooding eloquence and haunted eyes peeking out of a gaunt, cadaverous frame like a tubercular, ashen-faced Egon Schiele figure, John Hurt is ideally cast as Winston Smith. As Julia, Suzanna Hamilton (first seen as a lovelorn dairymaid in Polanski's TESS and as the paralyzed daughter in BRIMSTONE AND TREACLE) has a serene, arresting presence – and she appears as mysteriously stirring and beguiling to us as she does to Hurt. She brings a captivating freshness and warmth to her role, a little reminiscent of a young Harriet Andersson. Her pale, wiry, broad-hipped body has a simple, unaffected, almost archetypal beauty, and in the film's more intimate moments, she radiates all the tactile sensual grace of a Munch or Degas nude.

As O'Brien, the Jesuitical inquisitor of infinite patience, Richard Burton delivers a superbly perspicacious swan-song performance – he becomes almost a kind of an oracular Thanatos to Hamilton's Eros. In an exquisite, maliciously Swiftian twist of irony, Burton's famous voice, with its rich, mellifluous Welsh inflections and descending cadences of Shakespearean sonnets and Dylan Thomas poetry, becomes a cruel herald of the willful, systematic destruction of the human spirit -- of `the worst thing in the world' that waits in Room 101… in the fated `place where there is no darkness.' When O'Brien tells Winston, `you are thinking that my face is old and tired…and that while I talk of power I am unable to prevent the decay of my own body,' Burton's sagging, weary face speaks volumes.

In the lesser roles, Gregor Fisher's Parsons literally resembles a sweaty frog, James Walker's Syme is the classic image of a squirrelly, mealy-mouthed hack-intellectual, while Andrew Wilde cuts the most chilling figure as the bespectacled, unblinking ‘company man,' Tillotson. The late Cyril Cusack plays Mr. Charrington, the kindly Cockney landlord who is not all that he appears to be, with an understated sentimental charm punctuated by slight flickers of calculating menace (watch closely for the way Cusack's facial expression changes whenever Hurt is not looking at him). Phyllis Logan (the star of Radford's début feature, ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER PLACE, and a supporting player in Mike Leigh's SECRETS AND LIES) provides one of the film's most clever unacknowledged ironies: as the Telescreen Announcer, her strident, hectoring voice suggests a more shrill caricature of Margaret Thatcher.

If anything, this film makes a unique and compelling case for some of the oldest cinematic devices in the book that nearly all contemporary filmmakers have since abandoned: slow dissolves, fades, blackouts, shock-cuts, slow motion, flashbacks, montage. The high-contrast photography, alternately harsh and low-key lighting, and iconic close-up shots evoke the abstract, transcendental purity of Bresson or Dreyer. There is even one extraordinary sequence when Winston, bruised and battered, is seen having his head shorn in a holding cell that is clearly meant to recall Falconetti's famous haircutting scene in Dreyer's LA PASSION DE JEANNE D'ARC (1928). Similarly, Burton is filmed in oppressive, looming low-angle with Expressionist shadows defining the lines of his craggy visage à la Eugène Silvain's Bishop Cauchon sans the warts. And the idyllic barley fields of the ‘Golden Country,' where Winston and Julia have their first tryst is a possible homage to the titular peasant paradise of Dovzhenko's EARTH (1926).

What makes the film so powerful is not merely its fidelity to its source but its vivid sense of realism. NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR is such an impassioned and richly textured work that the visuals almost seem to seep into the pores of your skin, intoxicating you with dread and longing. And Radford is so adept at obscuring the boundaries that separate the ameliorative persistence of reverie from the glaring harshness of waking reality, that the film's seamless perfection becomes almost frightening.

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86 out of 99 people found the following review useful:

Faithful adaptation - maybe too much?

7/10
Author: David Lane from Winston-Salem, NC
22 June 2005

George Orwell's literary masterpiece "1984" is presented with amazing accuracy and detail in this version filmed during the very months of the author's vision. The casting, set design, and atmosphere are all right on the mark for how I envisioned them during reading the book. This film is dark and uncompromising, and follows many of the dialogs verbatim from the book.

The flaw in the film, for me, is that I felt like I only enjoyed and understood this movie BECAUSE I had read the book already. There is a theory I once heard and agree with: the closer an adaptation is to the source, the more necessary it is to read the source. A good adaptation is faithful to the essentials of a story but makes necessary changes so that it not only becomes cinematic, yet also becomes something that a viewer unfamiliar with the source material can understand. I think if I were ignorant of the story, there are too many things that would confuse me in this film which the book seems to go out of its way to explain.

For example: Who/Where exactly is Oceania? How did the countries go from their current political state to the envisioned one? Why do the people gather in mass and scream passionate hateful exclamations at the screen? What exactly does Winston actually do? Who are the proles? I praise movies that can effectively tell a story without means of voice-over, a much overused device in films. In this case though, I think a little may have helped, not necessarily wall-to-wall, but sparingly used. The movie is effective by being more ambiguous than the book, but I tend to think maybe it is too ambiguous.

In summary, read the book if you haven't (either before or after seeing the film) to get a complete overview of the author's vision. With that as a foundation, this really is a good cinematic portrayal, and of a story that is still relevant and not impossible to come to pass. Obviously 1984 is long since gone bye-bye, but 2084 or 2054? Oppression can always come as long as people desire self-centered power and the masses don't pay close attention.

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121 out of 179 people found the following review useful:

Trust no government.

Author: Doug Galecawitz (dougg@evilnet.net) from Lisle, IL
17 April 2000

So you feel like renting a movie. After a slow drive to the video store in which you try to avoid the police from extorting you, you enter a video store with enough security cameras to see parts of you that you've never seen. You would rent some porno but today you'll be paying in credit card and you sure don't want that census taker knowing you've seen all 50 volumes of clamlappers. So instead you rent 1984. The zit face behind the counter scan your card and instantly your personal information and spending history is all over the internet. When you get back home you pop in the tape, you would have a joint, but the government has decided that pot isn't in your best intrest. Neither is beer, cigarettes, fatty foods, caffine, red meat, abortions, pornography,flag burning, sex in general or any of the other things you use to enjoy. You sit down to watch your movie and relax the rest of the night when storm trooper-like police bust down your door and carry you away. Seems renting 1984 set off an alarm in all local police computers and got you on the thought police's wanted list. You should know better then to oppose your government in any way, shape, or form. You would fight back but all those gun laws eventually equled up to a ban on the second amendment. Sound like an impossible world? Sounds fictional? Watch it then take a look at the world around you. Your half way there. Enjoy what freedoms you have left before they're gone. I'm sure one day this movie will be considered illegal.

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80 out of 101 people found the following review useful:

Accurate and powerful rendering of a timely piece of work

Author: Alain English from London, England
18 September 2002

From the opening shot of "Nineteen Eighty Four" the viewer is plunged right into the hellhole of Oceania and the ultimate totalitarian nightmare. Whilst the year 1984 may be long past us, the essential themes of George Orwell's best known work still remain as timely and as relevant as ever.

Winston Smith (John Hurt) is a drone worker in the Bureau of Information, and his job is to edit the news in accordance with the needs of the governing Party (which is in continual, seemingly endless war with Eurasia and other opposing states). He must also refer to the dictionary of Newsspeak, which is the government's language for the distribution of information.

He lives in a world where there is no escape from the authority of the government who regiment the every thought and deed of their subjects. The Party is steadily working on a way to outlaw the concept of the family and the idea of conception. This is done to eradicate Thoughtcrime and guarantee the worker's total devotion to the Party and its leader, Big Brother.

Winston abides by this (recording his increasingly ambiguous thoughts about society in a hidden, handwritten diary) until he encounters Julia (Suzanna Hamilton), a strange young women with rebellious ideas, to whom he develops a powerful attraction. But their passionate, forbidden relationship cannot escape the all-seeing eyes of Big Brother.....

Screenwriter Jonathan Gems has a done a terrific job with the script. He successfully translates Orwell's ideas to the screen with great clarity. Micheal Radford directs with subtlety around the greasy sets and crumbling locations (the picture was filmed in and around the very area in which Orwell set his novel).

The performances from the chief principals are very strong. John Hurt is excellent as Winston, bringing a subtle and considerate approach to the character. Particularly disturbing is his final scenes, as he becomes gaunt and disfigured through government torture. Suzanna Hamilton is gentle and quirky as Julia and "Rab C Nesbitt" actor Gregor Fisher appears as Winston's ill-fated friend, Parsons.

Veteran actor Richard Burton lends a cold charisma to government enforcer O'Brien and he too excels in the film's final moments, as he coolly and sadistically tortures Winston, subjecting him to severe physical pain to subdue him, casually pulling a tooth out of his rotting mouth, then exposing him to the horrors of Room 101, all the while exhorting obedience to the Party and love to Big Brother.

The strong relevance of the concepts of "Nineteen Eighty Four" should not be underestimated. Whilst the term "Big Brother" is now synonymous with the ridiculous "reality" TV shows of the same name, others like the Two Minutes Hate (in which the workers are coerced, through a two-minute broadcast, into hating the enemies of the state); the idea of a government waging a perpetual war to advocate "peace" (especially relevant in the aftermath of September 11) as well as the editing of news and the abuse of language in order to suit the needs of government and disguise its true agendas are ideas that are chillingly present in today's society.

All of this is powerful and thought-provoking stuff, and helps to make "Nineteen Eighty Four" an accurate and powerful rendering of a still very timely piece of work.

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55 out of 57 people found the following review useful:

A labor of love

Author: hojoe from Lawrence, MA
25 December 1998

I am frankly mystified by the comments of those who seem to find this film disappointing or inadequate, and even more by those who claim to prefer the 1956 version, which I consider to be inferior in every respect to the later version, except for some top quality performances by Donald Pleasence and Michael Redgrave in supporting roles. In my opinion, this later version of "Nineteen Eighty Four" is one of the best literary adaptations I've seen.

The film was obviously a labor of love for director Michael Radford, who also co-wrote the screenplay. As noted in the end credits, the film "was photographed in and around London during the period April-June 1984, the exact time and setting imagined by the author". If this were a big-budget Hollywood bomb, I might consider that a publicity stunt, but in the case of this little-known, little-seen British film, it's fairly obviously a form of homage.

The look of the film is extraordinary in its evocation of the world Orwell created, down to the tiniest detail. Although that world was obviously very different from the real world of 1984, a deliberate choice was made to stick with the Orwellian vision in every way, anachronistic technology and all, and I firmly believe it was the right choice, as opposed to the "updating" we sometimes see in adaptations of classic "futuristic" stories. Thus, we are treated to the baroque and slightly disorienting sight of black rotary-dial telephones, pneumatic document-delivery systems, old-fashioned "safety razors", tube radios, etc., all of which were already obsolete at the time of filming. And of course, the omnipresent black-and-white "telescreens" with rounded picture tubes.

As Winston Smith, the story's protagonist, John Hurt is an inspired piece of casting; absolutely the perfect choice. Not only does he fit the author's description of Smith to a "T", but with the haircut he's given, he even bears a striking resemblance to Orwell himself. And there is no actor alive better than Hurt at evoking victimization in all its infinite gradations and variations. Suzanna Hamilton, relatively little-known here in the US, also does a fine job as Julia. The film also contains the final film appearance of Richard Burton, in one of his most fascinating and disturbing performances as O'Brien. And the great Cyril Cusack does a classic turn as Charrington, the pawnshop proprietor.

Right from the opening scene, in which we look in on a screening of a short propaganda film, brilliantly conceived and executed by Radford, during the daily "two minutes hate", climaxing in Dominic Muldowney's memorable, genuinely stirring national anthem of Oceania played behind the gigantic image of Big Brother, we are catapulted headlong into Orwell's nightmare vision. While not a particularly long novel (my copy is 256 pages), it is nevertheless dense with ideas, and it would be impossible for a standard-length film to include them all, even if the audience could stand all the endless talking heads it would require. Given the inherent limitations, I think the film largely succeeds in preserving a good portion of the ideological "meat" of the novel. It is certainly extremely faithful in the material it does include. Even the incidental music by Eurythmics feels entirely appropriate, and doesn't in any way break the mood. In fact, it even enhances it.

While I thought the 1956 version did a fairly good job for the time, it had a number of flaws in my estimation that made it far less successful an adaptation. For one thing, although the world it portrays is grim, it's not nearly grim enough. Also, Edmond O'Brien may have done a creditable job as Smith, but physically he's all wrong for the part. The portly, even chubby O'Brien bears little resemblance to the slight, emaciated, chronically exhausted, varicose-ulcerated Smith described in the novel. Neither is the 1956 version as faithful to the book; some of the material is softened, and there are odd, unexplainable alterations: O'Brien becomes O'Connor, and I don't think that Goldstein, the possibly imaginary leader of the possibly fictitious "Resistance", is even mentioned. At 90 minutes, it runs a good 23 minutes shorter than the later version, which necessitates the trimming of even more of the novel, for all you literary purists. In all, for me, the 1984 version of "Nineteen Eighty Four" is the definitive version; a remarkably vivid and memorable film.

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70 out of 90 people found the following review useful:

One of the great screen adaptations

Author: quixoboy from Ottawa, Ontario
31 October 2003

Merely a few days after finishing my read of George Orwell's fantastic 1948 novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four", I was immediately keen on looking to rent the modern film version, "1984" - filmed, appropriately enough, not only during the actual YEAR of 1984, but also during the exact same short span of months that the story took place in. This, to me, is a prime example of perfect, and unbelievably well-timed, brilliance. A picture based on such complex, prophetic, and well-known material could have turned out to be a complete disaster (which it certainly had potential for, judging from the horrendous-looking DVD cover); thankfully, however, I was not disappointed.

"1984" is probably one of the most, if not THE most, masterful transitions from book to movie I have ever seen. Easily, its most impressive aspect was its phenomenal accuracy, attention to detail, etc. In other words, this film was FAITHFUL, in every sense of the word, to its source material. One can't give such a statement about films these days.

Amazing casting, terrific musical score, and mind-blowing sets, cinematography, and direction, "1984" is surely a unique treasure, and one that still retains the same timeless messages even decades since its release.

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40 out of 52 people found the following review useful:

"I went ahead and did it just the same......"

8/10
Author: Michael Glasper from Norhtern England
14 December 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Couple of points:

Doesn't give it a 'nice' Hollywood ending, which is a bonus. It was filmed at exactly the same period in April 1984 that the book was set in. etc......

This is a truly evocative film. For me there is a big test of the film's quality: Nineteen Eighty-Four is my favourite book by my favourite author, and this version does that book great justice. Michael Radford did a very fine job on something that could have gone terribly wrong. Yes, there are some points to pick at(Newspeak isn't explained much, and the central plank of the book which O'Brien gives to Smith in his office is hardly mentioned at all), but these are minor things.

Fans of Orwell's work have much to be thankful for in this interpretation. Graham Greene can lay claim (with Orwell) to be English fictions greatest writer, and there has not been a truly excellent version of any of his novels. (The Third Man does not count, as Greene wrote the screenplay first, and the novel second).

On the whole I think Radford has done an excellent job with a fairly un-filmable book, and I give it 9/10

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