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The critics, nit-pickers and historical pedants who've trashed this
superb piece of truly cinematic movie-making have totally missed the
So what if Johnny Depp's English accent isn't exactly "right" for his character? (English accents have always been problematic for all but the most skilled of American actors: Depp pulls it off entirely passably, way way better than - say - Keanu Reeves, risible in Coppola's Dracula. Think of Kevin Costner, who didn't even bother trying in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.) I'm a Londoner by birth, and for me the accent in no way detracted from Depp's excellent performance.
As for history, again, who cares if the filmmakers have employed a degree of dramatic licence? This is a movie, not a documentary. Nobody knows for sure who Jack the Ripper was, and in order to make the film interesting and enjoyable the writers have speculated a little. Fine by me.
OK, so Heather Graham was impossibly glamorous, but movies with big budgets need a little bit of star appeal. The notion of the "tart with a heart" is a cliché, sure, but nevertheless her character works in the context of the film. (Contrast the depiction of prostitution generally in this film with the utter garbage that is Pretty Woman.)
What's so great about this film? The quirky, literate script; the performances (all, with the possible exception of Graham, excellent); the wonderful photography and production design; the depiction of the murders themselves - elliptical, shocking, mesmerising; and above all the aura of brooding menace, gloom, cruelty, darkness, melancholy and downright despair running through it as deeply as the veins through a block of marble. This is marvellously thoughtful, evocative film-making, very bold and brave. No happy Hollywood ending, no phoney saccharine or cheap laughs to satisfy the popcorn brigade. This is a proper grown-ups movie that probes some of the darkest regions of the human psyche, places mainstream filmmakers like Lucas, Spielberg, James Cameron and their ilk don't dare to go, or couldn't go even if they wanted to. To me it appeals almost on a subconscious level, forcing us to confront our deepest fears and taboos - death, pain, suffering, human wickedness. I can't think of a recent major release that is so relentlessly downbeat.
Don't let the detractors put you off. It's hardly surprising a generation weened on MTV - folk with the the attention span of a gnat and the emotional depth of a paper cup - didn't like it. They've got their Screams and their Scary Movies, and they're welcome to them. This is super stuff, and the Hughes brothers and their collaborators should be heartily congratulated for it.
A classic, not so much for the plot, which is a little contrived, but for its sure command of cinema as a visual storytelling medium.
There are many things in media that have nearly insurmountable
preconceptions that lead to generic truisms. One of these is 'comic books
are pure fluff,' and another is 'no good movie is ever based on a comic
From Hell is a project that takes both of those truisms and tosses them completely out the window. Based on an ambitious graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Eddie Campbell, From Hell (named for the signature on the Jack the Ripper letters written to the police), is one man's carefully researched theory into the eternal mystery surrounding the Whitechapel murders of 1888.
This is not a factual display of guilt or innocence, as many of the answers behind these crimes will never be known, but as theory mixed with fact, it creates with chilling detail the mood of lower-class London in the late nineteenth century, where life was cheap, bloody and oftentimes short.
The Hughes brothers, noted for their stylish direction, do a very good job of creating the mood here, involving all the grunginess and hopelessness of the streets, and combining the more mystical elements of Moore's story into the crime tale. Johnny Depp is Inspector Abberline - an opium-smoking criminal investigator that often follows up on hunches he receives during moments of hallucinatory revelation.
The style of the film - dripping with violent murder of prostitutes in alleyways - leaves more to the imagination than it reveals, although the gore level is by no means light. The vicious throat-slashes and bloody crime scenes are definitely grotesque, but most of the time we are shown the crime after the fact, letting the viewer decide how horrible the murder itself was.
All the performances are strong, fitting together into an ensemble piece, with Depp being as much a chameleon as ever as Abberline, and Robbie Coltrane equally strong as his colleague Godfrey. Ian Holm, Heather Graham, and Ian Richardson also provide good supporting roles.
For an historical perspective of the Jack the Ripper crimes, best to watch an A&E documentary. But for a theoretical description of the crimes, and an artful depiction of a carefully constructed tale, definitely check out the very chilling, very calculated, and very good From Hell.
The best thing about an enduring mystery is that people can feel free to
take all sorts of liberties with the facts and create interesting "what if"
scenarios. FROM HELL is a perfect example. For the record, the theory
behind the killings is pretty much right out of JACK THE RIPPER: THE FINAL
SOLUTION by Stephen Knight, and it's been pretty well discredited since it
first came out twenty years ago, even though it makes a hell of an
entertaining piece of fiction.
I completely discount any criticisms of the movie where people say "it didn't happen that way". Of course it didn't; that's why this is a fictional film and not a documentary. It's very loosely based on the Alan Moore graphic novel, and about all it retains of it is the Duke of Clarence theory and the stylish look of the architecture. It's enough to make the film beautiful to watch.
Yes, I know that four of the five victims of Jack the Ripper were women in their late 40's, which on the streets of Victorian London would mean that they would resemble crones in their late 60's or early 70's. Just try to make that fly past a Hollywood studio boss; the casting at least had women who looked fairly human rather than like fallen glamour girls. I've read a couple of comments disparaging the accents. Actually, Cockney accents were the norm in the street because people tried to blend in and often weren't eager to advertise Scottish or Irish origins.
I call special attention to the performance of Jason Flemyng in the role of Netley, the coachman, arguably the most fascinating and believable character in the whole production. Most of his best scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, unfortunately, and yet he still manages to pull the movie together into a cohesive whole just by his presence. (It must have been a heck of a fun role to play!) As well, Sir Ian Holm deserves special mention for stepping in when the original choice for his role, Sir Nigel Hawthorne, tragically became ill and died just before the film went into production. I have never seen Sir Ian in any role that I didn't find completely believable, and that ranges all the way from KING LEAR to his role in ALIEN, for heaven's sake.
My interest in the whole Jack the Ripper case has been reawakened thanks to this movie, and I'm trying to hunt down a copy of Alan Moore's graphic novel (which is very difficult to find). No, it's not even close to an approximation of what really happened; nobody will ever know the truth, Patricia Cornwell's arrogant claims notwithstanding. It's still worth renting, if only for the beautifully ominous score and the fascinating transformation of Prague into Victorian London. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I had always been fascinated by the story of Jack the Ripper, but
surprisingly this was my first film based on the story. From Hell is an
outstanding mystery and a dark, moody film. This is the type of film that
sticks in your mind days after seeing it. You'll have the image of old
Whitechaple in your head. You'll have the terrific murder scenes stuck in
your head, but most of all you'll have the image of Jack the Ripper in your
head. From Hell will disturb you. It might scare you, and it might even
you (action fans will not enjoy this film). From Hell is certainly not for
everyone, but it certainly was for me.
Johnny Depp is fantastic. He is one of my favorite actors, and certainly delivers the goods in From Hell. His performance is perfect, and one of his bests yet. Heather Graham also does a fine job in From Hell. I was surprised with her performance. I'll admit, when I heard she was going to be in the film, I was worried. I mean who doesn't get worried when they find out the same actress who was in Austin Powers 2 is going to be in a Jack the Ripper film. But she did surprise me, although I still think she could have done better.
The Hughes brothers direct this film with such style. The use of colors in the film is beautiful, as is the use of lighting. The camera angles are crazy, and the film turns out a beauty. Trevor Jones' score is great (As a matter of fact, I'm listening to it now), and fits the film perfectly. The music is eerie, creepy, and scary. It's flawless.
The murder mystery is also great. It keeps you guessing the whole way through (I was not successful in guessing who Jack was), and when the killer is revealed, it all makes sense. And let me tell you, From Hell is violent! Although not as gory as I expected it to be, it'll still make you cringe (that throat slash!). A lot of the violence takes place off screen, which lets your imagination run wild, and mine did just that(My head was filled with tons of gory images).
A lot of people call From Hell boring. I can see how they think that, but I disagree completely with that. Sure the film is slow moving, but how fast can a murder mystery movie be? I didn't get bored with the film at all... I was completely absorbed in the film. Another problem people found with this film was the love story, which I have to agree with. Had the love story been more developed, the ending would have been much more depressing, as we would have felt for the characters more (This could be what kept the film from an A+ rating).
As I said before From Hell is great. It is my 3rd favorite film of the year, and my second favorite horror film (this year). It's a dark, compelling film, that is NOT FUN! There is no comic relief, it's all horror. Had it been a little more scary, and had the love story been more developed this film would be an A+. I highly recommend fans stay away, because you'll hate it.this film to fans of Jack the Ripper, and horror fans with patience. Action
From Hell: 9.5/10, A
"From Hell" is an interesting spin on the familiar Jack the Ripper
tale, using the iconic cultural image of the cloaked man with the top
hat as the source for a spin-off not of history, but of a graphic
The lead performance by Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline (who really existed in 1888 at the time of the murders and really was an authority on the case) is wonderful. Depp nails the cockney accent perfectly. Unfortunately, Heather Graham -- as the prostitute Mary Kelley -- is not as fortunate. Although her accent seems to improve throughout the film at various intervals, for most of "From Hell's" duration her British voice is quite stiff and the American twang is audible. The Hughes Brothers did not choose Graham for her acting abilities.
That said, the set design on this production is magnificent. 1880s London is brought to life and Whitechapel has never looked more realistic. The film is an odd hybrid of genres because it maintains the look and feel of a slasher film whilst presenting historical elements and painstaking recreations of actual murders. Robbie Coltrane, as one of the police officers involved in the case, has a lot of fun with his character and is fun to watch, and similarly as convincing as the scenery.
This is a very gritty and gory film -- more so than I ever expected. It's quite a strange beast with hallucinogenic visuals, horror elements and history thrown in for good measure, on top of some slightly modernized techniques. All in all this film kept me entertained because it was unique, and very different, and not particularly because it was "great." I didn't expect a whole lot, but I felt that the movie was directed as ably as it could (or should) have been and the performance by Johnny Depp was deserving of a better film. The ending got a bit carried away, but it still presents a pretty cool twist on the whole Jack the Ripper scenario without totally insulting the intelligence or even upsetting one's sense of history. (Like Disney's "Pocahontas.") The respect the filmmakers have for their material shines through and elevates this above what it could have been. Definitely worth seeing, if only for its originality.
A dark and meticulous tale, based around the murders of Jack the Ripper in
Whitechapel, London. The films look is no more than what you would expect
from a one based on Jack the Ripper. Dark shadows loom over the characters
as the satanic nature of The Ripper is emphasised. It's such an intriguing
story and character that every time I watch a film based on this story I
come away slightly disappointed. This time was no exception. While the
acting was good (minus some quite unconvincing cockney accents - Heather
Graham and Johnny Depp, I'm talking to you) and the direction assured, the
script seemed a little reserved. There was no great insight into any of the
characters, and much of it played out like a simple murder mystery. But this
didn't stop me from enjoying the 120 or so minutes.
Why did I enjoy this film, I hear you ask? For a start, the direction was superb - the streets of London looked grimy, while the `unfortunates' (i.e., prostitutes) wandered around in squalor awaiting their fate. This produced a wonderful atmosphere, creating murder scenes that were much more terrifying and shocking (and very gruesome). Johnny Depp's performance (as the detective Abberline), as always, was hugely enjoyable to watch. He played his character in a very subtle way - halfway between comic and serious. He portrays a desperate man, constantly resorting to drugs so he can pass through the day. Depp and the filmmakers see him as a version of Sherlock Holmes, constantly finding clues that other police officers have overlooked (cliched, yes, but somehow Depp provides a little bit of originality). Abberline even suggests that the killer must be a learned man! How could this be?! While dismissed by all the other characters in the film (for a learned man would never commit acts of such debauchery), we as an audience know better not to trust a detective like this - their preposterous ideas are usually right. Another actor to praise in this is the wonderful Ian Holm. He plays his character with a wry little smile, seemingly enjoying every line he says. His interactions with Depp are great to watch.
While the film provides little to ponder on once the credits have rolled, you can leave satisfied that you have seen a stylish and enjoyable film. The Hughes brothers seem to be a talented pair of directors.
For those that care I gave this film 7/10
I wasn't expecting much from this movie. The critics passed it over
rather quickly, saying a few kind words but without a strong
recommendation. The couple of people I knew who saw this said that it
was "good," but never cared to say much more than that and have never
brought it up again. As I sat down to watch it, I thought it looked
nice but moved too fast, was a little dumb. But by the end, I was
astounded. I think it's one of the best films of 2001. Sure, it's a
triumph of style over substance, but I think we need a couple of good
films like this every year. I love style.
I would compare From Hell most closely to Alex Proyas' 1997 triumph Dark City, which, like From Hell, made almost nothing at the box office. I hope, like Dark City, that From Hell will win a larger audience on video. It's not as intelligent as Dark City, which was brilliant in nearly every way, but From Hell equals it in visual virtuosity. Its story, while sometimes lapsing into silliness, is enormously gripping. It's also one of the few horror films to succeed at inducing a sense of dread in the audience. A Scotland Yard detective (played well by Johnny Depp) is on the case of Jack the Ripper, who is himself on the trail of a group of five prostitutes. On the way, Depp discovers that the ritualistic murders are part of a larger conspiracy. The film is full of great twists, the biggest one being simply hilarious in its level of audacity. The end is quite unpredictable (although the climax is a little too predictable).
There are several minor flaws in the film. It does go a bit too fast, but its breathless pace ends up paying off well in the end. Many people will be turned off at the level of gore in the film. Seriously, avoid it at all costs if you have a weak stomach. But if you could take it in Silence of the Lambs, Se7en, or Sleepy Hollow, you'll be fine. I actually felt that those three particular films flaunted their gore and were tremendously ineffective in their horror. Yes, even (and perhaps especially) Silence of the Lambs. I don't know why, but I didn't feel that way about From Hell. 10/10.
30 Second Bottom Line: The infamous Jack the Ripper serial killer mystery
unfolds in Victorian England as a stylistic who dun it.
From Hell is an exciting murder mystery with a number of hints about who dun it to keep things interesting every step of the way. Depp gives his expected, outstanding and other worldly performance. Ian Holm, Katrin Cartlidge, Robbie Coltrane and Ian Richardson and some of the unnamed prostitutes give the film an edge that takes us back a century in time. Heather Graham is OK and I'm pleased to see her doing something beyond Say it Isn't So and more along the lines of Sidewalks of New York. She is, however, a little too pretty, sophisticated, charming and clean for a street ho. Katrin Cartlidge would have been a better Mary. It's a little bit of a stretch to envision the Inspector and the whore Mary falling in love, but stranger things have happened.
It's always gratifying to see actors, writers and directors grow; and certainly the Hughes Brothers are doing that. They have not made a lot of films but each one is very good. The two could be a Stanley Kubrick in the making, as he only made 13 films during a long, respected and controversial career. Since 1993, they've made Menace II Society, Dead Presidents and American Pimp. From Hell is more sophisticated while still retaining a dark tone that is not depressing. Peter Deming as cinematographer has outdone himself with From Hell and Mulholland Drive. It's clearly Oscar caliber work.
Although From Hell is based on a comprehensive novel of the same name by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, with the focus on a real killer in 1888, the film is not trying to be a JFK and convince us how it really happened. That said, when you realize who the killer is you are faced with an interesting hypothesis.
Jack the Ripper may have been crazy, but he was acting out of logic (his own to be sure) and for a reason other than wanting to kill a few prostitutes. The fog in London finally is lifted on the murder mystery and on the Hughes Brothers being great directors.
Message on the movie: We can't always have what we want from life. Evil exists. Victorian England was a very unpleasant place and era.
So the conclusion is that this movie is a fair movie althouht actually it hadn't got a very clear ending, it is fantastic thriller to watch and remember don't miss this one.
"From Hell" is another Jack-the-Ripper yarn. This time around Johnny Depp
plays Inspector Frederick George Abberline, who is investigating the work
a killer carving up the bodies of prostitutes in Whitechapel, London.
"From Hell" is a borderline horror/thriller. There is a fantastical element to the story as Depp receives visions of the killings, when "chasing the dragon" (or, in simpler terms, when doped up to his eye-balls). These visions are used to make mad-intuitive leaps on Abberline's parts to help push along the story-line, as the bodies begin to pile up. Unfortunately the killer is quite obvious as the script provides "red herrings" which are set up in a manner that you know they're going to be false, so the viewer is "surprised" (or not) when the real killer is revealed. That's a shame as it removes some of the mystery from the movie when you realise you got it right. There's also a rather interesting take on the murderer's reasoning, which is not entirely unwelcome, but does feel somewhat as if they need to pad out the story and distinguish it from other Ripper yarns.
Depp is, as usual, good. His accent appears a bit muddled however - where is he supposed to be from? But, as Hollywood standards go, it's better than average. Robbie Coltrane provides the humour (such as there is) by being Abberline's quipping side-kick, making dry observations of the situations he finds himself in. Coltrane has shown his acting skills in the TV series "Cracker" and he doesn't strain himself here, nor does he outshine himself. The rest of the cast are grand but Heather Graham, as the whore whom Depp falls for, is unconvincing as she looks far too pretty, and well mannered, to be a "lady of the night".
The direction is alright. The Hughes' brothers manage to convey a generally, downbeat and sombre tone to the proceedings. The vision sequences however come across as slightly comic-booky, a reminder of movies of the 60s/70s where they went overboard on filters and camera distortions in order to depict insanity. Far more effective is the bleak visions used in the TV show "Millennium" - here it tends to detract from the seriousness of the moment. Some of the scenes are fairly gory - it features a quite gruesome throat slashing - while other times the violence is seen purely in the reactions of others, without having to expose the viewer to it. Both of these work well. All in all the Hughes' acquit themselves because they fail to actually show a bright, clear image until the very very end of the movie, where the image is accompanied by one of the darkest in the movie. Thus they effectively capture the mood of the city and the times.
"From Hell" suffers from having a lack of tension and a script where characters tend to take on almost caricature tones (some of the prostitutes and the Nickel's gang in particular come across as ham-fisted). Nevertheless there's a mood to the movie, and Depp's performance is convincing enough to keep you watching until the decidedly downbeat end. Recommended for fans of the Victorian thriller/horror genre and those seeking a half-decent movie. 6.4/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For a very long time, it has been a staple of storytelling to ambiguously mix the teller with the characters in the story. One persistent formula is to have a `psychic' character who unknowingly creates the future in his teller role and sees it as prescience in his role as character. Often that character is a drug user and runs into an equally strong opposing creative force based on ritual projection. That opposing force can be religion, the drama of monarchy, or theater. Also normal in the formula is that the sense of his visions becomes entangled with the sensuousness of sex in the person of a temptress.
We last saw this formula in the amazing `Moulin Rouge' where the narrator/participant was an absynthe user who drives/creates the story. His visions are opposed by an alliance of aristocracy and theater, and confused by his attraction to a prostitute. That film was a remarkable artistic success because the filmmaker completely understood what he was doing. One could follow him as he related one of the forces at work (sex, aristocratic power, the strength of performance, drugs) to the various ironies and uses of the manner of presentation. Very intelligent, very powerful. In this very month, `Frailty' appeared as a slight variation of the formula.
Here we have the same formula, but completely messed up because of the plain dumbness of the filmmakers. In this case, the narrator/explorer is a detective not a writer, reverting to the original mode. As with Rouge, he uses absynthe but here together with opiates (see `Edwin Drood' for a similar opium-smoker from the same era and place). He is played by Johnny Depp who thoroughly understands this storytelling device (see `Ninth Gate').
His sex temptress is the prostitute Heather Graham -- being Irish carries extra significance to the formula because the Irish invented this device (see the pooka `Harvey'). Together, they are involved in a struggle with an apparently impossibly force. In Rouge that force was the ritual power of theater backed by aristocracy. Here it is the ritual power of the Masons backed by aristocracy.
In Rouge, we had debauched Paris, here it is London, which has the extra patina of Sherlock Holmes. That introduction of the detective (read `Darwinistic explainer') as `inventor' of the world revolutionized this formula and drives perhaps half of all storytelling today.
So we have a very well thought out story, with at least one master actor in the most important role. The graphic novel understood what it was about and exploited the formula expertly. But these guys, the Hughes, are completely oblivious to what this is all about and the project collapses into a juvenile, melodramatic jelly.
That's too bad, because they are African American. Since Spike Lee is so remarkably outspoken and also so embarrassingly thick and stupid, we really don't need to reinforce the notion that it is impossible for some sectors of the society to deal with even moderately sophisticated material. African-influenced story-telling is the most evolved set of traditions anywhere, which makes this a particular shame.
Not only that, but the extras on the DVD include a segment on absynthe which is largely inaccurate.
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