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Great Expectations (TV) More at IMDbPro »

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22 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

A real Masterpiece from Masterpiece Theatre

Author: pekinman from Illinois
19 December 2004

I have always enjoyed the old David Lean version in spite of the fact that it is so abridged and has a "Hollywood" happy ending. This version of 'Great Expectations' knocked me back by its fidelity to the original book... I had not expected to see it filmed with the bittersweet and ambiguous ending that is employed here with such a powerful effect.

There is nothing in the nature of the usual cinematic mawkishness that so often accompanies adaptations of Dickens books to film. Nothing exaggerated, nothing glossed over. The characters are flesh and blood and their emotions are vividly characterized by a wonderful cast of performers.

Ioan Gruffudd, Justine Waddell and Charlotte Rampling are fabulous as Pip, Estella and Miss Havisham. Rampling's Havisham is terrifying in her quiet way, like the ghost of a dead princess haunting her huge Satis House. Waddell's Estella is the truly tragic figure, as in the book. She has been prevented from developing the "loving mechanism" found in most human beings. Waddell's conveyance of this dilemma is profoundly moving. Gruffudd's highly responsive Pip is also deeply felt. Their younger counterparts, played by two wonderful young actors, Gabriel Thompson and Gemma Gregory, possess uncanny resemblances to Gruffudd and Waddell. One of the best transitions in time, as far as character development, I've ever seen.

The photography is utterly beautiful, the music haunting and memorable in its stark simplicity. It is rare that I notice the editing but this film is so perfectly put together that I took clear notice of the artistry at work in that department.

For Dickens addicts this film is a must for your collection; for lovers of great cinema I would say the same thing. This version of 'Great Expectations' SHOULD have been a major film release in the theaters. Even if it had been more than the four hours it takes in the TV adaption, longer even, I think it would have had a greater following than it enjoys.

Julian Jerrold's 'Great Expectations' joins the short list of the finest productions out of Masterpiece Theatre's stables, along with 'I Claudius', 'The Jewel in the Crown' and 'Brideshead Revisited.'

See it!

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:


Author: Kate-71 from London, England
22 April 1999

This absorbing adaptation is a pleasure to watch. Inevitably some of the nuances of the novel, such as the turning of Pip from his roots, are made abrupt in this three hour adaptation. The acting is superb and not overly mannered. Ian McDiarmid makes a complex Jaggers, and Charlotte Rampling is ravishing and vulnerable as Miss Havisham. There are fine performances from familiar actors as Joe and as Abel as well. Ioan Gruffudd is a stunning Pip. An ideal romantic hero, as we have already seen in the Hornblower series, he is physically stunning and manages to act as well. (For my liking a bit more smoldering wouldn't go amiss.) I enjoyed his reading of Latin to Abel with a Welsh accent!

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16 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Poor Execution

Author: Spleen from Canberra, Australia
27 July 1999

`Great Expectations' is the best of Charles Dickens's novels. Maybe it's the best novel that there is. It's certainly a novel where every incident is important - so there is no excuse for a TV version being a miserable three hours long. If they HAD to truncate it, though, then there's no help for it: some valuable scenes must be removed.

What they've done instead is to sort of leave everything in, but skate over it all at high speed. It's as if they've simply left out every other sentence. The opening encounter with Magwitch in the churchyard is conveyed without being shown at all. We get a few seconds of terror, then a cut to later that evening, and then we're shown a bit more of the crucial scene in flashback - only just enough to understand what is going on, if that. (Don't even get me STARTED on the ludicrous editing, or the self-consciously arty camera angles.) Some scenes have been re-written. The result is usually awful.

Is this just the complaint of someone who has read the book, and finds the filmed version to be different? No: rather the reverse. If you haven't read the book you'll have a much harder time than I did even making sense of things; and you won't, as I did, have any particular reason to care about the characters.

For instance: the central character is Pip. Anyone who has read the book knows how close Dickens brings us to him. Not once in this version are we, so to speak, introduced to Pip. No scene lasts long enough - he does not confide in any other character long enough - for us to get a sense of his motivations or a reason to continue to sympathise with him after he does something shameful. What's more, the mature Pip is an utter disaster. The re-writing of key encounters with Miss Havisham, Orlick, and Estella (that's right - all three) makes Pip out to be more thoughtless, more cowardly, more vindictive and less intelligent than Dickens makes him out to be. (Note that Dickens doesn't make him out to be vindictive at all.) If we care what happens to him at all it's only because we have even less reason to care what happens to anyone else.

I've only scratched the surface - it's bad all the way through. I will, though, allow that many of the actors give excellent performances under trying circumstances. (I can't warm at all to Ioan Gruffudd as the mature Pip, but that was probably the script.) That's about it. I can't even recommend this as the best TV version going, since the Disney series of 1989 (a decent five hours long) is all that one could wish for. With that version in existence this one was just a waste of everyone's time. Don't make it a waste of yours.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Subtly changed version

Author: pawebster from England
1 May 2007

This is quite a good version, but be prepared for some oddities. The main one that Pip is made less nice than usual. His friendship with Joe is made to seem particularly one-sided, and he is extra reluctant to help Magwitch on the latter's return. Both young and older Pip are well played -- Gabriel Thomson deserves particular praise -- but we never feel that we really know the character. This is perhaps the main defect of this version. The voice-over in the old David Lean version was helpful there.

I personally don't like Charlotte Rampling as Miss Havisham. The role should not have been glamourised. Dickens does not do glamour. Estella is good however. Compare this performance with the oversweet Estella of the David Lean film.

By the way, this version has an excellent Herbert Pocket. The goody-goody characters in Dickens are not easy to play without sugary sentimentality, but Daniel Evans' Herbert really lives.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:


Author: bigfatl from British Isles
1 August 2003

Whilst it has not stuck to the text word for word, it has not veered greatly from it. The film covers everything that needs to be covered on the whole, and where it has altered things, I think it has done so for the better. The film still paints and amazing picture of this excellent piece of literary work!

The casting was simply spectacular, the idea of sexing up Miss Havesham with the delectable Charlotte Rampling was perhaps the most unique and welcomed aspect of this production, which does anything but suffer from it. Waddell, Hill, Gruffudd, and Evans all give stellar performances and carry the film. The score is extremely haunting and so spectacular that I went out and bought the CD (which we were very lucky the BBC released). How Peter Salem has not been snapped up by Hollywood yet I don't know!

The score on top of the direction and production design make this a mouth watering feature that I'd recommend to anyone! The film got me through A-Level English.

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9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Captivating and beautiful

Author: Kimberley (kimmb) from Kentucky, USA
2 August 1999

I've seen some three or four adaptations of this classic novel, and I honestly think that this is one of the best out there. The settings are appropriately dark and in keeping with Dickens' bleak writing, a shining example being Miss Havisham's mansion. The acting is perfectly superb; Ioan Gruffudd is most definitely one of the best finds of the past few years. Ian McDiaramid is wonderful as usual, and Gruffudd's Titanic castmate Bernard Hill (that movie's Captain EJ Smith) is a great Magwitch. Keep your eye on Ioan, I predict great things! His performance is outstanding, down to the replacing of his own Welsh accent with Pip's distinctive lower-class English one. Lovely filming, great direction and wonderful acting make this a great addition to the already distinguished collection of the BBC.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Visually Stunning!

Author: eric walter from Salisbury, Maryland
14 December 2001

Director Julian Jarrold does a truly excellent job of bringing Charles Dickens' finest novel to the screen. Filled with haunting camera angles, a magnificent score by Peter Salem, and superb acting by Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd and Justine Waddall, this version of GREAT EXPECTATIONS is defintly worth multiple viewings!!

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:


Author: Arnie Mellor from Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
25 July 1999

This would have to be the best three hours of viewing I have seen in years.The acting,locations and costumes were spot on. Mr.Dickens was probably turning in his grave at some of the 'adjustments'made to his original story.but I don't think this spoiled the viewing in any way.You have to give the English credit,they surely know how to make historical type movies.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful acting, bleak story

Author: Annie Many Horses ( from USA
18 May 1999

This is Charles Dicken's bleakest story by far, and for that reason alone I've always detested it. I made a point of seeing this production because Ioan Gruffudd was in it. I was not disappointed.

Once again, Mr. Gruffudd shows his ability to become the character, with a talent far beyond many better known young actors. His voice is so musical that one can avoid the story line and simply enjoy the sound.

Charlotte Rampling was a far more interesting Haversham than others I've seen. She had a slightly sinister quality just under the surface that was quite delicious.

Watch the production for the talent within. It's well worth your time.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Too tasteful for its own good

Author: T Y from United States
31 March 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is better than the Michael York 'Great Expectations' which is not worth your time. But some addled producer must have gotten it in his head that Dickens deserved the weightiness of Shakespeare. It doesn't. Almost all Dickens is low, rollicking and shambling, with fuzzy edges. His books don't have these overly tasteful aspirations. Here, a very good Dickens novel is given a straight, costume-drama, Masterpiece Theater production. And it attempts some regional verisimilitude that doesn't end up adding much. It seems designed to appeal to female viewers. Dickens characters are recluses, unbalanced eccentrics and weirdos, but here they've all been leveled out. Characters, settings, emotions, none of it ends up being as vivid as the David Lean version which has been more lovingly shaped. Every emotion in this is oh-so-serious with characters brooding over things that can't be spoken. It's like they all worked too hard on figuring out the "inner truth" and "motivation" of their characters. PFFFFT! To what end? It kills the story. They're so uptight they might as well be Swedish.

The story is better and more thoughtful when it's ambiguous and without a villain (See Lean). Miss Havisham is a bit of absurdity who should be treated almost as a caricature, though she certainly delivers some bombshells. It doesn't suit the story for her be played realistically like here. Orlick shows up in this version, but his value was never very important to the Pip narrative, except to include Dicken's usual villain. This Jaggers just cannot compare with Francis Sullivan's haughty power-brokering from '46. But the fatal blow is Ioan Gruffudd. At no point can a viewer decipher what his impenetrable, stone-faced Pip feels about anything. It's impossible to see him as anything other than a prop that is acted upon. The pacing is beyond lugubrious. Not an ounce of humor remains.

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