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Has its downsides, but overall a solid adaptation of a complicated book
In terms of Dickens dramatisations on televisions, this 2007 dramatisation of "Oliver Twist" is not as good as 2005's "Bleak House" or 2008's "Little Dorritt", both of which were outstanding. In terms of adaptations of this complicated book, it has its downsides but is a solid one. My personal favourite version is the 1948 David Lean film, that had gorgeous cinematography, dramatic music, masterly story-telling, an outstanding Alec Guiness despite the admittedly over-sized nose and a genuinely frightening Robert Newton. This adaptation isn't as good as that version or the timeless 1968 musical, but I personally preferred it over the 1982 TV film with George C.Scott and Tim Curry, that had fine acting but hindered by some questionable plot changes and the 2005 Roman Polanski film, which was decent but bloated. The only one I haven't seen yet is the 1997 film with Elijah Wood, by all means I will give it a chance but I have been told it is one of the worst adaptations of the book.
Back on target, the period detail is excellent here with realistic looking sets and well tailored costumes. I for one liked the score, the opening sequence is wonderful, but there are also some dramatic, haunting and beautiful parts when it needed to be. The direction is good especially with Nancy's ghost, the scripting was above decent (I didn't notice any soapish qualities about it) and the pace was good. Dickens's book is insightful but complex in characterisation, particularly with Fagin, there are changes here but the storytelling was not that bad I thought. The acting is mostly very good, William Miller gives Oliver a fair amount of innocence while giving him some steel too. Sophie Okenedo is a subtle Nancy, Gregor Fisher is a suitably grotesque Mr Bumble, Edward Fox is a fine Mr Brownlow and Julian Rhind-Tutt is startling as Monks. The best characterisation though was Tom Hardy as Bill Sikes. Sikes is a turbulent, big, burly and violent man and not only did Hardy meet all of these brilliantly, his interpretation was also emotionally complex.
However, there were one or two disappointments. I may be the only one who was disappointed in Timothy Spall's Fagin. I have nothing personal against Spall, far from it, he is an exceptional actor, but Fagin is supposed to be in my opinion oily, vile and manipulative. Fagin here was more reminiscent of WormTail but with an accent and he was too passive. Away from the casting, the other flaw was the length, having been timed during the Christmas season the later part of the dramatisation felt rather stretched.
Overall, this is a good dramatisation, not outstanding but worth the look. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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