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Apt Pupil
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A chilling movie

8/10
Author: lord_KRISHNA (joao.madureira@netcabo.pt) from Lisbon, Portugal
17 September 2002

I'm not an adept of the thriller ar horror genre (yes, I get nightmares at night....:) ), but I thought this movie was worth watching as it promised a good character study, as stated by another reviewer.

Sure enough, it did provide. It depicts with brutal clarity the prevertions that can be hidden for years under a blanket of normal suburban banality by an old german nazi officer; and those that can arise in a smart kid fascinated with the history of the period.

As the movie progresses, a hate-love relationship develops between the two. They are fascinated by the life and tales of each other but are also compelled to continuously ascertain some kind of power over the other. Each one being threatened and threatening the other with some kind of unspeakable secret.

The movie gave me chills (but perhaps I'm too sensitive to this genre; more hardened fans will surely think this is very soft), helped by the music (like those Wagner operas on a grammophone) and the cinematography. The plot is a little bit cliched, but it does entertain in an intelligent manner.

Overall, I think it's definitively worth a good look.

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Evil prevails

Author: LATENITE from Chicago, IL
13 September 2002

The first time I saw this movie a few years back I automatically wrote it off due to its lack of faith in the horror of the Stephen King novella on which the film is based. Now, after viewing it for a second time with a more open mind (and lack of remembrance of the King story), I am much more accepting of 'Apt Pupil'. Bryan Singer has created a movie that effectively succeeds in displaying mental games and the resulting horrors and anxieties. Much of the film is dedicated to an intense back-and-forth psychological battle between the two main characters, played beautifully by Brad Renfro and Ian McKellan. But much of the greatness of 'Apt Pupil' lies in the depiction of a curious youth during his most crucial stage in the maturity process. A stage where one boy's single decision has the possibility of changing the face of his whole life. Also, it is a stage where evil tendencies and curiosities have the steady ground to solidify within one's personality. The film illustrates the learning and progression of evil within a single human being as well as within human nature as a whole. An excellent character study, but with a few holes that the filmmakers obviously trust the audience to be intelligent enough to fill in themselves. Very intriguing.

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Brooding study in evil down the years

7/10
Author: herrkikers (herrkikers@hotmail.com) from Devon, UK
14 August 2002

Stephen King seems to get lucky with movies. His bog-standard novels seem to get transformed into some screen gems, of which Green Mile is by far the most superior, but other shorts like 'Carrie', 'Sometimes They Come Back' and 'Thinner' have risen from nothing special on the page, to something well worth watching in movie form. Apt Pupil is no exception to this rule - not Schindler's List by a long shot, but at times utterly captivating. On the down side, the film is a little too convenient to be true - the scenes with the pigeon, the cat, the tramp and the old Jew can be seen coming from a mile off, and how handy that the one person to happen upon Dussander's true identity is the same who has a morbid obsession with power and death. But of course this is the point the film makes - how evil spreads almost through osmosis between people and between generations. The parallels between Dussander and the 'pupil', especially in Renfro's confrontation with David Schwimmer's guidance counsellor at the end, are fascinating, but at the same time somewhat predictable. We've read King, we've seen his films before, we know what is bound to happen. Nevertheless, the progression Renfro's character makes from bright spark to obsessive power-junkie is not overall as trudgingly inevitable as it might have been. The 'uniform' scene is a classic set-piece, and through some good performances from Renfro and Mckellan we get, in a simple snapshot, a good idea of the characters of both. The film is an uneasy mix of grittiness and high school horror cliche at times, but as a whole is haunting, thought-provoking chiller, especially effective at combining the old Nazi's feebleness and sadism in the same figure. To be viewed as a balancer between the depravity of 'Salon Kitty', and the magnificence of 'Schindler's List' as part of a very cutting insight into the Nazi mindset.

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Excellent

Author: njsuk from Hampshire, England
12 August 2002

A thoroughly engaging movie. The story of an old Holocaust perpetrator being recognized and captured in the USA is not new, but this version is a chilling and thoughtful version. I was completely absorbed by this very well played and executed movie. One point to watch for is cinematography that often frames the main character within scenery before zooming in on him; perhaps a subtle message is hidden there?

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Very Good

Author: sl_cook59 from Melbourne, Australia
5 August 2002

I think "Apt Pupil" was very good. Sir Ian McKellen is an extremely good actor, who played this part just right. He was very convincing in the part. Brad Renfro is brillant. He demonstrated the " All-American" teenager. He is a fabulous actor with great potential and also with stunning good-looks. He will go far. Together McKellen and Renfro create a relationship that is a love-hate one. They are both great actors who pulled it off well.

The young boy, Todd, (Brad Renfro) forces the eldely man, Dussander, (Ian McKellen) to tell him stories about the horrible things the Nazis did to the Jews during WW2. As time goes on, Todd becomes more and more distrubed by the stories that Dussander is telling him. He has nightmares. He becomes shy and angry. Once a top student and now his marks begin to fall. When he used to care about his marks, by the end, he does not care anymore. This story shows how someone can be corrupted by power and greed. Todd bought Dussander a SS uniform, because Todd wants to see it on Dussander. Todd orders him to march. If Dussander does not do what Todd orders him to do, Todd will call the police - they might be interested to find a wanted war ciminal! Todd uses his power over Dussander to do what he wants. He is very manulating and he is also very persuasive. But as time goes on, Dussander theatens Todd by saying that if Todd tells everything, Dussander will tell everything too, but Todd will also get into trouble for knowing the where-abouts of a known war ciminal and failing to tell the police. It is a very good story with an excellent cast and there is some fantastic acting on McKellen and Renfro's part. The film is a bit different from the novel. Stephen King's novel is fantastic. He is a genuis and he certainly knows how to keep his audiences' attention. Over all out of 10 I would give it 8.5. It is very good!!

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one monster creating another

7/10
Author: Simon_Klemmensen from Melbourne, Australia
23 June 2002

Interesting film about a boy, Todd, discovering a fugitive SS-officer, Dussander, living in his home town. Then forcing the "former" Nazi to narrate about the war or being turned over to the authorities. The idea of one monster creating another is quite fascinating depicted in this film; Todd by Dussander, Dussander by Himmler (his superior officer during the war) and Nazi-Germany. There were a few things about the film that disturbed me, like two people recognizing Dussander after five decades, but overall this was a fascinating film and certainly worth the time. Then again Bryan Singer and Ian McKellen rarely disappoints. 7/10

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Good, but could have been so much more

6/10
Author: magic_marker from london
9 June 2002

Anyone who has not studied the Holocaust has no idea what evil is. Anyone who has not read the casually molevolent testimony of Randolph Hoess at Nuremberg about why zyklon B was so much better than carbon monoxide, or the interviews with Broucher as he inspected the slowly withering bodies of starving babies to ensure they were dying efficiently, or the reports of survivors of Auschwitz of the eye experiments of Doctor Mengele, or seen the racks upon racks of preserved children's brains recently uncovered in a University in Vienna, cannot truly comprehend the dark depths to which the human soul can descend.

Given that this film perports to use the legacy of the Holocaust to explore the nature of evil, one would expect it to take the audience with it into those depths, to give the desenitised viewer a glimpse of hell. It cannot; it is too timid. The gradual tainting of Todd's soul as he exposes himself to evil like a junkie with a needle should have been the focus of the film; instead the script minimises its impact, while Brad Renfro delivers a performance that is too flat to capture the subtle viciousness that Ian McKellen's Nazi is slowly feeding him.

If the film had been true to the hideousness of the Holocaust, it would have focused on the psychological battle between the two characters, a gradual dance of insanity that lead to their mutual dissolution. Instead in transforms into a typical Hitchcockian domestic thriller, complete with a body in the basement. What a shame. The Holocaust is a story that needs to be retold. No film has managed to capture its true evil, not even "Schindler's List." No filmmaker would dare upset his audience that much. I thought "Apt Pupil" would be the exception.

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Solid, enjoyable, drama that fails to capture the power of the novella

Author: Aidan McGuinness from Dublin, Ireland
16 May 2002

`Apt Pupil' is an almost successful adaptation of Stephen King's excellent `Apt Pupil' novella. It tells the story of Todd Bowden (Brad Renfro), a star pupil who is obsessed with Nazism in World War 2. He admires the sheer control, and power of the empire – the evil acts perpetrated by them are irrelevant next to this. When he discovers that Kurt Dussander (Ian `Gandalf' McKellen), an ex-Nazi commander, has moved into his town, he blackmails Kurt into telling him tales of the old days in return for not revealing Kurt's true nature.

`Apt Pupil' is a tale of morality or, more precisely, amorality. Bowden is a control freak, revelling in sharp precision. Renfro is very good in his role generally, his soft good looks belying the cold nature underneath. Real credit must go to McKellen though – starting out as an old man, we can see the buried evil awaken as Bowden forces him to confront his past. This is never the more clear when Bowden forces Dussander to dress up in an old Nazi uniform, and watches, almost horrified, as Dussander's old past resurges itself with frightening authority.

Bryan `Usual Suspects' Singer is a great choice of director for this movie, as his style is sharp and clear, like the characters he is filming. The shadows are crisp, the actors visibly focused. This meticulousness is what the film needs.

However the film is not perfect. The pacing is somewhat slow and uneven. There is not always a great sense of what direction the film is heading in. It also pales in comparison for those who have read the original material – the true disturbed nature of Bowden is not adequately explored, and instead he has a touch of a one dimensional cold calculated nature about him, rather than exploring why he is this way. The final resolution is satisfying, and disturbing, suitable if quite different to the original ending penned by author Stephen King.

Overall the acting (David Schwimmer aside), and direction, help out a script that sometimes can be quite uneven. There's not enough here to make this a great movie, but instead just a reasonably good movie. That's a 6/10 then.

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10 out of 10!

Author: 5StarFonzie from Toronto, Ontario
18 April 2002

Looking at some of the old user comments on this film, obviously nobody understood the film.

First of all, if you're whining about how good the novel was, and then watched the movie, you're an idiot, plain and simple. A book is one thing, a movie is another. Go cry about that.

This however, is a movie on a fantastic book. I don't think that in a short 2 hours, the movie did bad at all. It is an excellent job done right by Brian Singer as the director. I didn't expect less of him or more, it was perfect. Especially the similar scene to "Usual Suspects" where Todd is driving his bike and all the scenes that led up to the moment flash through to him until he trips on a branch and crashes. Awesome movie. I can't even express how awesome Ian McKellen is. He's just amazing as an actor. The part was played by him and I can't even imagine anybody else playing it. Great movie, a must see. It lines up as those Stephen King movies that are actually good with IT, Pet Semetary, the Green Mile and The Stand. For you idiots reading this who are bashing something you don't understand or disappointed because you were watching a movie instead of reading the book, then go to a library next time and refrain yourself from the theatre or video store. Big Difference! 10 out of 10!

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The apt pupil

Author: Nicolaj Laugesen from Copenhagen, Denmark
12 April 2002

I saw the movie on TV just yesterday. I was thrilled. A both amazing and terrible story of a boy who discovers a secret. A man in the neighborhood is an old nazi war criminal. He finds evidence that old Mr. Denker is Kurt Dussander, who led the KZ camp of Patin. He blackmails him. He must tell him everything about the war. What happened in Patin... In all those years Dussander have feared that the man hunters from Mossad would find him. Dussander did very terrible things during the war. But he seems as a normal old man. But in the end the kid actually learns something from him.

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