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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Does anyone agree that how overly aggressive both main characters in
this film were is a bit over the top? There is no reason why he would
be this vicious. The majority of the Nazi military, even those in
charge of the most horrid of acts, were not that sadistic mentally.
Many Nazis happened to be animal lovers and not even biggots. Most of
them were in the military due to desperation to serve a leader who
promised salvation, or a simple respect for their country. Some were
also drafted into War, without any alternative. Granted this man was
specifically suppose to be fairly sadistic in nature... it seems unfair
to take something so easily targeted as the Aryan Race and make them
seem like such heartless monsters.
Also, the kid... he was borderline insane and possibly more inwardly sadistic than the old man. He had no reason to be so messed up in the head. He may have been a Nazi Idolizing Adolescent, but when you get right down to it... there's a lot of those. They're usually cruel or torturous to small animals for the sake of being malicious, as well as selfish, NOT naturally evil. They do it to rebel and seem cruel. This kid in this movie was just... sick. He didn't do it to be cruel, he did it because he WAS cruel. Because he wanted to see things suffer and die.
I'm not saying it made the story bad or anything, it didn't. I understand it being a writer myself. It's a good plot device for a Fictional Thriller like this, but they just went too far to get their point across. It lacked subtlety, and just threw the maliciousness in your face. The scene with the cat wasn't necessary. It was a separate scene associated in no way with the storyline that absolutely no sane person would have missed if it was cut from the final film. It didn't make me think Ian's character was more evil, I knew he was. It simply made me think the Writer and Director had problems and wanted to see an animal harmed. Honestly, would it have detracted from this film in any way to take that scene out? And it isn't just that. Immediately after (literally the next scene) is the scene where the boy kills the bird. Why? I understand it's to show that the two are more similar than they think, but I'd like to think everyone knew that to begin with.
This movie could have been so much better with just a few changes to it. That's my problem with Stephen King, he doesn't use a lot of psychological effect in his stories, he just comes up with the most dark, macabre thought semi-related to the story he can, makes the whole flow of the story seem calm and relaxed, then suddenly springs it on you for Shock Value.
Sadly, the average Horror/Suspense reader is limited in mental capacity and doesn't understand true writing so anything more advanced and artful may either fly right over their head or possibly destroy their mind if they try to grasp it.
Tell ya what. If you like Stephen King because of his shock value, stick with him. If you see my point and want more, look up an Author known as "John Saul". He's about fifty times more talented and a hundred times more entertaining. Poe might be too advanced for the average person due to his style, but John Saul is a definite, superior alternative to King.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When I first saw the movie I was nailed to the ground, I really loved it that much. There is only one thing that bothers me a bit in the movie and that is the fact that an elder Nazi can't become quite human. When they portrait Denker he is a normal old man, a bit scared but there is nothing in his behavior that would make you think that he is a Nazi. When Todd starts black mailing him the old man stays friendly and helps Todd, I got the feeling there that he regrets his past and that he has changed. When Todd gives him his costume he is filled with anger, so it only adds to my feeling of his regret. Minutes later I really got disappointed for the scene with the cat ... it just proves that no one can make a Nazi become human, they always have to be described as pure evil ... What they did is awful but I guess many of them did things because they had no choice and they were drilled into doing stuff like that. I think when some of them look back at their past they really regret their actions and would do anything to turn back the time.
`Apt Pupil', based on the Stephen King novella of the same name, is a wicked
little film that delves into an unholy relationship between two evils, one
young and hungry, the other old and experienced . . . . and both dangerous.
This relationship is what drives the film, and is what ultimately makes `Apt
Pupil' a fairly compelling film to watch. The film fails, however, to
deliver a satisfying payoff at its conclusion. While there's a lot of
patience and care taken to build the story, there's a feeling of
incompleteness as `Apt Pupil' eventually grinds towards its ending. `Apt
Pupil' takes its audience on a wonderfully acted journey . . . and then
stops short of its final destination, as if it couldn't find the final ounce
of courage near its end to push beyond good, ordinary film-making and into
the realms of film greatness.
`Apt Pupil' is the story of Todd Bowden (Brad Renfro), a seemingly bright, normal, All-American high school student with one secret quirk he's morbidly fascinated by the Holocaust, viewing it as something dark and cool rather than as something horrifying. He's also incredibly knowledgeable about the Holocaust, which is why he's able to recognize a local old man for what he truly is -- Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellan), a Nazi SS officer wanted for his crimes against humanity. Todd confronts Dussander, telling the old war criminal that he wants to know what happened in the concentration camps `the stuff they won't tell you in books', as Todd says. Dussander wants nothing to do with this, but faced with having his identity exposed, he is forced to accede to Todd's demands. What follows from there is a malevolent, almost symbiotic relationship that begins to grow and spiral rapidly out of control -- for Todd, it's an introduction into understanding the real face of evil, and for Dussander, it's a reacquaintance with a dark side of his past that he quickly learns to embrace once more. While Todd and Dussander do not necessarily trust one another, they soon realize that they need each other if they want their secrets protected -- namely, Dussander's real identity and Todd's failure to reveal that identity to the proper authorities -- and people are starting to come dangerously close to learning these secrets, such as Todd's parents, and Todd's high school guidance counselor Ed French (David Schwimmer) . . . .
The relationship between Todd and Dussander is the heart of `Apt Pupil', and it's here where the film really shines. Admittedly, the film does open in far too rushed a fashion it's pretty much Todd immediately confronting Dussander about his true identity; some build-up to such an important moment might've been nice -- but once it stumbles past this rushed opening, it's a joy to watch the cat-and-mouse relationship between Dussander and Todd. Todd thinks he has the upper hand over Dussander, but he literally has no idea about the slumbering evil he's managed to awaken until it's far too late. Meanwhile, Dussander is initially a pitiful man, desperately trying to forget the atrocities he's committed . . . but the pity doesn't last for long. Once Todd forces the old man to acknowledge his past, Dussander realizes that he likes what he used to be a monster. Both Renfro and McKellan are fascinating to watch as their respective characters; Renfro because he's so chillingly believable, McKellan because he runs the gamut from being a pathetic drunk to a devil reborn. Both characters struggle throughout the film to dominate one another, and that conflict which, in essence, is the foundation of their twisted relationship is what sets `Apt Pupil' apart from other films as something worth watching.
The main problem with `Apt Pupil', though, is that besides acting as a wonderful showcase for this evil relationship . . . `Apt Pupil' doesn't really go anywhere. In particular, the character of Todd Bowden doesn't go anywhere. More the fault of the script than of Brad Renfro, Todd never comes across as depraved. He's certainly evil as some of the acts he commits in the film certainly show but part of the film is about how monstrously depraved the Holocaust was. Todd is portrayed as a monster, someone who born in a different place and time certainly could have been a Nazi war criminal, but he does nothing to show that monstrous nature. I kept waiting for Todd to commit that one unspeakable act of pure evil that would truly make him Dussander's `Apt Pupil' and never saw it. Without this unspeakable act, the audience never gets the opportunity to see that Todd really learned anything from Dussander. (Todd's slightly sick and twisted? No kidding! We knew that in the opening credits!) There's a few other things that bring down `Apt Pupil' as well; there's a chance meeting between Dussander and a hospital patient that seems entirely too fortuitous and coincidental; and the casting of David Schwimmer as the guidance counselor is just way, way off the mark.
The ending of the film `Apt Pupil' is markedly different from that of Stephen King's novella. In fact, the novella contains the `unspeakable act of pure evil' that I wanted in the film. Perhaps if I'd been unaware of the existence of the original novella, I wouldn't have felt that the film was missing anything . . . but I doubt it. `Apt Pupil' is a good, solid film that touches on some disturbing issues but it could've been great, had it chosen to closely examine evil instead of just scratching its surface. `Apt Pupil' is a decent, if somewhat incomplete, movie. Grade: B-
Like "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Stand By Me", this is an adaptation of
a Stephen King story which actually works. It does so primarily because
writer Brandon Boyce and director Bryan Singer have wisely ditched King's
by-the-numbers gore in favor of a far more interesting focus on the
McKellen and Renfro put in outstanding performances as the leads. Renfro strikes the perfect balance between innocence and menace, and McKellen is at times legitimately terrifying as the aged Nazi. (See "Richard III" for McKellen as a Nazi-like character at the height of his powers.)
Overall, this is more tightly constructed than the novella, and dispensing with the ludicrous violence makes it far more credible. For these reasons, it's more unsettling than King's work could ever be. Once again Singer has given us a cleverly written, beautifully acted, and finely crafted film.
So why did this film do poorly at the US boxoffice? From the tone of most of the criticism, it's apparently because the film deals with a difficult subject and argues an unpopular case: that the horrors inflicted in the name of Nazism were not necessarily a manifestation of Absolute Evil. They may, instead, have been caused by the activation of a potential which exists in us all - yes, even in the all American boy. That's not something most Americans want to be told... at least, not on a Friday night at the movies.
Brian Singer's Usual Suspects; arguably one of the best who done-its ever made. Apt Pupil should have been an hour long mini-series on ABC. The film didn't stand up to any of my expectations. It was too long, far too slow, and I kept finding myself fast-forwarding through most of the movie. The ending was slightly redeeming, but if it wasn't for my dog barking, I probably would have slept right through it. Overall a huge disappointment. Rating: 4
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I will be honest. This movie scared the unholy Dejesus out of me. But then again, so did Cube. Its weird how that works. Movies like this terrify me, but stuff like the exorcist is nothing. Anyways, on to the movie. This movie was like Hitchcock on Acid, Crack, X and PCP. I know a lot of people will disagree, but this movie was the best about Nazis, Aushwitz (sp) and The holocaust in general ever made. The portrayal of a man who never lost his wit in old age, and uses it for evil was brilliant. The portrayal of a boy who uses his knowledge to learn more, and eventually slips to the level of the man he regards as evil is brilliant. The way the music comes in was Brilliant. The way it was edited was brilliant. This one goes on my top 5 for sure. Certain scenes, like the one with the cat in the oven, made me realize how evil the world can be. The scene with the pigeon represented how easy it is to be influenced by evil. Fantastic Film, SEE IT NOW!
The reason the story of the holocaust is still so compelling today is not
the ultra depravity of the Nazi leadership - rather it is the way that
people like ourselves, decent citizens in a normal time, played passive or
active roles in it - somehow, we must both comprehend the evil and also
understand that had we been there, we would probably have been part of it
too. Another interesting question is how a civilised society should treat
those who committed great evil a long time ago. And at first Bryan Singer's
strange film, 'Apt Pupil', seems like a brave but slightly heavy-handed
attempt to address these issues. An attractive teen-aged boy
single-handedly tracks down an aging Nazi living under a false name in his
home town; and forms a strange bond with him. This relationship is well
portrayed, although the boy's motivation remains unclear, and Ian Mackellan,
speaking throughout in a cod-German accent, lends an unwanted air of
pantomime to the piece. But this level of ambiguity is clearly not
acceptable in an American film, and Mackellan is soon up to his evil Nazi
ways again, which we see in a pair of scenes that would have been dismissed
as ludicrous if they had appeared in Singer's later film 'X-Men'. Meanwhile
the previously precocious child becomes suddenly stupid when the
requirements of the plot dictate. The ending is clumsily assertive and yet
In my own opinion, all of our actions, good and bad, are committed for mixed motives, some honourable, some slimy; but subject to certain codes of societal and personal restraint. In Germany, those restraints broke down; and revealed the abyss, horribly close to the surface of normal life. In personalising (and melodramaticisng) evil, 'Apt Pupil' misses the point. The question of how we deal with what we have learnt about what we are capable of, however, remains as pertinent as ever.
From the lessons he learnt in `Sleepers', young Brad obviously benefitted greatly from the older Brad, which gave him an excellent start to a promising career. And he holds up very well in this major role, alongside a brilliant Ian McKellen. An unlikely pairing, but it works well, which keeps you interested in the building up of the two characters. Apart from a couple of bloody scenes - perhaps exaggerated somewhat from Stephen King's story, which I have not read - that I would have preferred to do without, the story unravels coherently, thanks in great part to Bryan Singer's methodical directing.
The film is indeed effective as it explores the characteriology of the old Nazi and the young student: the clashes as each tries to dominate the other, verbal tussles and persuasions in the claustrophobic confines of the old man's house, and all-revealing face close-ups, all lends to generating a couple of very worthy - even praiseworthy - interpretations. `Apt Pupil' is an out-of-the-ordinary thriller, precisely because it builds more on the two main characters rather than simply putting in a lot of so-called action.
I shall certainly keep my eye open for any more films with Brad Renfro: I hope he gets the serious roles he evidently deserves.
This film was interesting. I like the way the way the pupil was turning into his teacher, like if evil could be some kind of contagious sicknesses that if you stay close enough of the source, eventually you will succumb to it. The acting was good, and I like the way that the characters were develop, how the young kid became more and more evil as the movie went along was this movie its finest performance. The story was different and I guess as close to a classic as you can get .but not quite. Even though, the acting of the main characters is something to look forward to, the movie does have some parts or characters that could have being better, but in its sense that's just a minor detail. If you can, see this movie just for the acting you won't be disappointed.
"Apt Pupil" is an undeniably interesting psychological drama. Bryan Singer's directing doesn't reach the levels of brilliance of "The Usual Suspects", but it's careful and technically flawless. His material presents some serious problems, though: the movie's moral message is ambivalent at best, and at the end we are pretty much asked to admire the young hero for using his "mentor's" blackmailing methods so effectively. And the story DOES contain some amazing coincidences that are hard to accept (the kid recognized a man from a 40-year-old photo?). Ian McKellen's performance has been widely praised; I thought that he was never as menacing as he was meant to be. But Renfro is excellent, and David Schwimmer seems astonishingly ideal for his role. On the whole, a gripping movie, but rather forgettable - and it goes on too long.
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