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I considered fewer stars, but this is a very worthy production on it's own. See comparisons to other recent versions ***with links*** near the bottom of this review.

This adaptation is chock full of well known actors and wonderful performances. The production values are outstanding and the setting is true period (not a re-imagining). In fact, this edition may become some peoples' favorite version. However, I felt it lacked that final spark to make it a true classic. I suggest a rental first and try other recent adaptations below.

FIRST THE EXCELLENT. The actor playing Pip is terrific and I am glad they didn't simply try to find the most famous name they could cast. This is a reasonably faithful adaptation for purists and that may sway you to this production over others. Much original dialog is used, yet a more natural voice of cinematic acting is employed rather than a melodramatic stage acting style. Still, very Dickensian though. Jason Flemyng, as the blacksmith that raises Pip, proves he is more than just a role player and I felt he was truly outstanding and sympathetic. This version as a whole was really fantastic at portraying the mood of Pip's transformation, his embarrassment with his previous life and friends, as well as his realization/reconciliation later. I also really liked that this version deftly defines the very moment where Pip charms Ms. Havisham as a boy, and unknowingly saves himself from a fate reserved for another, meaner gentleman.

NOW THE LESS GOOD. The movie had so many elements that could make it a true classic. However, it fails to flesh out Ms. Havisham and Estella. The movie feels long, yet still too short to make you care about characters necessary to draw the viewer in. I LOVE Helena Bonham Carter, but she carries so much Tim Burton movie baggage into this production that it's a little distracting. Her performance is cartoonish (though not as over the top as usual). She seems more goofy than insane or calculatingly vicious. One doesn't feel the real madness and mystery in Ms. Havisham. She seems like such an obvious choice, yet I didn't see the gravitas in her interpretation. The child Estella is appropriately cold, but so irritating that one just can't believe Pip would ever love her. Charm does not accompany the coldness. I don't feel the director ever gave Holliday Grainger the opportunity to redeem or humanize the character later in the movie. Holliday is one of my favorite new actresses, but I also feel she is not necessarily right for Estella. She is too sweet faced perhaps. Her demeanor is cold, but her face projects girlish beauty, not cold, hard, calculating beauty. Jaggers the lawyer is more jolly than austere. Fiennes as Megwich has a believably rough accent, but is much too fine a figure to believe as a brute convict. He is not really that menacing.

TRY THESE ALTERNATIVES:

The 2011 miniseries Masterpiece Classic: Great Expectations is perhaps the best recent adaptation. This is the TV miniseries with Gillian Anderson (yes, she shocked me too!) Gillian stuns with an amazingly mysterious, almost creepy Ms. Havisham that conveys the madness and even a bit of otherworldly beauty. Her portrayal is a little more exaggerated, yet I felt appropriate and intriguing. The extended miniseries format allows for the development needed and never grows tiresome. Truly, with this excellent version out, I don't know why they felt the need for the movie production just one year later (2012 in the UK rather than 2014 you see on the US release).

1999 version Great Expectations with Justine Waddell and Charlotte Rampling. This is probably my favorite because I am partial to Justine's portrayal of Estella. She is absolutely cold and distant, yet so stunningly beautiful and charming that one cannot help but love her. As the viewer, I was compelled to feel as Pip did. Rampling goes a little more vicious and calculating route, which is also valid for Havisham. Gruffud is an excellent Pip and I liked him as Horatio Hornblower so I liked it at the time. In retrospect, I would still place the two latter Pips above his performance.

1998 version Great Expectations with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. A little more re-imagining with this one. But, it is perhaps the most atmospheric and compelling of the versions. Purists may not like this one, but I found it very beautiful and entertaining. This one is a bit more sexy too!

I own all versions listed in this review. I will probably not watch the actual reviewed movie again (I watched it twice already).
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on November 23, 2013
As someone who loves Charles Dickens and the work of director Mike Newell, I have been eagerly anticipating this film since its release in England last fall. I was fortunate enough to attend its Arizona premiere at the Scottsdale International Film Festival on October 7th, and I have to say that all my anticipation was well justified. It is more than just a good film or a faithful adaptation of one of the 19th century's greatest novels; it is a masterpiece.

I can't understand why so many reviews, both from critics and the public alike, are so negative. It is a good watch whether you've read the novel or not. Literary purists will enjoy it for the fact that it stays so close to the book, and casual film buffs will appreciate that the twisting Dickensian plot is made comprehensible enough so that they can follow along as well. Having watched other adaptations including the much-lauded 1946 Lean film version, which was, incidentally, the last time this story made it to the silver screen, others pale in comparison. There is not a thing about it that I would change or want any different. It is probably the best film I've seen all year.

Hats off to screenwriter David Nicholls, who manages to successfully translate a 450+ page novel into the perfect 2-hour film. He kept it to just the right length--long enough to avoid feeling butchered, but short enough so that things weren't dragged out longer than necessary. The pacing was good, and I never felt like something had been "cut out", a rare feeling in a production like this. The preservation of Dickens' own dialogue and his occasional touches of humor lends an authenticity rarely felt in adaptations of his work (ref. BBC's disastrous 3-hour miniseries).

The visual look of the film is lush and gorgeous, with evocative landscapes of the Kentish coast and Gothic interiors looking equally appropriate. The choice of costumes is intriguing-a stylistic mash-up of 19th century with a psudo-theatrical flair. While I found some of the hairstyle choices, particularly those of Estella's, slightly out of place with the time period, overall, it works in this film.

What I found as the most pleasant surprise was how well acted this film was. The trap that so many actors fall into of allowing over-the-top theatricality and quirkiness overpower the fact that Dickens intended his characters to come off as real people has been avoided. The entire cast is ideally suited to their respective parts, and give real, moving performances. Unlike other Dickens adaptations, Jeremy Irvine and Holliday Grainger as the older Pip and Estella gave better performances than I expected from the trailer, and look out for Toby Irvine, Jeremy's real-life younger brother, as Young Pip--he's a scene-stealer! Helena Bonham Carter simply is Miss Havisham, and plays her as she should be played, slightly dotty, but with a reason for her madness. Robbie Coltrane is excellent as the less-than-trustworthy Jaggers, and Jason Flemyng as Joe is literally an exact replica of the character as I imagined while reading the novel. The real standout, though, is Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch. His beautiful eyes carry the character to perfection, and along with a believable but intelligible North Country accent, it's hard to imagine anyone but him in the role.

To sum up, Mike Newell's "Great Expectations" is unquestionably one of the best Dickens adaptations ever made, certainly the best of feature-length, and I recommend it to anyone.
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Director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Donnie Brasco, Harry Potter, Love n the Time of Cholera, Mona Lisa Smile, Enchanted April, etc) joins with creative screenwriter David Nicholls (When Did You Last See Your Father?, One Day, Starter for 10, Tess of the D'Urbervilles) and a cast and crew of enormous talent and delivers what in this viewer's opinion is the finest version of GREAT EXPECTATIONS on film. Few explorations of this complicated, dense novel by Charles Dickens manage to make every character wholly credible - no absolute villains or absolute heroes here, just a range of behavior throughout the spectrum that makes every character beautifully defined, making the intricate story wholly comprehensible.

The story is soften told that the plot is well known - though never as fully realized as in this beautifully photographed (John Mathieson) and scored (Richard Hartley) version. Pip as a lad (Toby Irvine, Jeremy Irvine's younger brother) is terrified by an encounter with escaped convict Magwitch (Ralph Fiennes) and befriends him - a significant moment in the story. The young orphan Pip is kept by blacksmith Joe Gargery (Jason Flemyng) and his horrid wife (Sally Hawkins) until he is engaged by the strange Miss Havisham (Helena Bonham Carter) in her strangely creepy house to play with her `daughter' Estella (Helena Barlow). In rather rapid sequence the adult Pip (now Jeremy Irvine) inherits a fortune from an anonymous benefactor, his future seems promising. Estella (now Holliday Grainger) seems bent on a different life than one with the obviously infatuated Pip. Pip is off to London, becomes a wealthy gentleman, still pines for Estella, is supervised by Jaggers (Robbie Coltrane) until a series of secrets surface and the story proceeds to its complex conclusion.

The vast cast is populated with some of England's finest actors and they all give sterling performances. The costumes and locations and settings are splendid. And for once the complex Dickens' story makes complete sense. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, April 14
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VINE VOICEon June 6, 2015
Nothing really grabbed my attention in this adaptation. I quite enjoyed the Gillian Anderson mini-series, although the adult Pip was not a good actor. This Pip is a bit better, but unless you take the time to explain relationships and events, film adaptations of Dickens' long novels come across as rushed and this is no exception. Not that great but not horrible either. BBC's latest adaptation of Bleak House is how these need to be done!
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on March 16, 2016
I watched this after reading the novel by Charles Dickens. The book obviously has more to it and is often the case superior to the movie. The movie does a decent job with the story line and the cast is focused and play their roles well. Helena Bonham-Carter and Raplh Fiennes are especially masterful in their roles. The aspectst that make the book wonderful are mostly intact and my mother who never read the book, enjoyed the film immensely.
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on August 28, 2014
I had just finished re-reading Great Expectations and wanted to see if this movie was true to the book and if I had to place a percentage on it, I'd say it's 95% true to the book. The only deviation, to my mind, was the omission of the character Orlick. As for the movie itself, the acting is superb, the scenes are just as I pictured them as I read the book, a lot of the dialogue is almost verbatim as it was in the book, and the actors are very well chosen to play their respective roles. It is a movie I feel comfortable showing to students after reading the book.
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on February 26, 2015
It's not the David Lean 1946 version, but what is? Quite good for the most part but not really up to past versions. Pretty well cast. Helena Bonaham Carter not quite up to Miss Haversham but Ralph Fiennes is superb as Magwitch. Interesting casting for "Pip"--- Jeremy Irvine ("War Horse") is the elder Pip and his younger brother plays Pip as a boy. Mike Newell directs. Excellent blu-ray release.
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on May 15, 2014
What can I say about this Classic Tale. If you have seen other versions you would know what to expect. If not, then the beginning doesn't give you enough information to know the depth of the story. It does have a different twist than the others. Helena Bonham Carter is my all time favored actress and I feel the writers didn't give her just along with Ralph Fiennes and Holiday Grainger. You would think the 2014 version would knock it out of the park but this version feel short for me.
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on May 11, 2014
i have been wanting this movie for a while since i have read the book several times..but was sceptical since books hardly ever match the movie...but mis havishams charactor came to life in front of my eyes just as i had pictured her and the estate...the actors were awesome the only one i didnt buy into was the sister and how the movie snuffed her out early on...{ good riddance} from book point of view.. i could see pip and joe and estella and magwich as themselves each one drawing you into thier story. i got my dvd in the mail today and watched right then...my daughter was working so when she got home... replay..lol it is that good! we each liked a certain actor.. myself it was miss havisham as well as my oldest and my next to oldest liked magwich and my two youngest liked the boy in the garden who tried to fight pip as a child...my teens are very busy but this movie drew us all in! i should menion i am a jane austin kind of person and my two oldest like edgar allen poe and my two younger prefer supernatural.. but we still all came together over this classic telling only because i was a big fan of his christmas carol and decided to read this story and then i wanted to see someone portray havisham and hellena bonham carter did it so well! thank you for a great night with my usually busy teens!
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on January 23, 2016
I think I would watch just about any adaptation of "Great Expectations." It's a great story, and there are so many characters of interest that it's almost inevitable that you'll see some fine performances. There's Alec Guinness, Finlay Currie, and John Mills in David Lean's 1946 film. There are Ray Winstone as Magwitch and Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham in a 3-part BBC version from 2011, and now there's this Mike Newell film -- coming in at approximately the same length as Lean's -- with Ralph Fiennes (Magwitch) and Helena Bonham-Carter (Miss Havisham). It's not bad at all, and it has a pair of young leads who have some chemistry between them, unlike Douglas Booth and Vanessa Kirby in the 2011 version. Pip and Estella as adults are played by Jeremy Irvine and Holliday Grainger respectively, and they do very well. The relationship of Estella to Miss Havisham is very well realized by Grainger and Bonham-Carter. And just as Gillian Anderson's Miss Havisham was memorable in the 2011 series, so is Helena Bonham-Carter's, in a completely different interpretation but one that she makes compelling -- she's much more manipulative, controlled and controlling, and even playful than Gillian Anderson's marvelous self-harming, twitchy wreck. Ralph Fiennes is convincing and powerful as Magwitch, but he's at a disadvantage compared to Ray Winstone in the 2011 series. Simply put, we don't see enough of him after his return from exile. The director Mike Newell brings his movie in at around 2 hours -- the series ran for three, and as a result we get a better feeling for a developing relationship between Pip and Magwitch after the shock of Magwitch's revelation. And Winstone had time to develop Magwitch more fully as a character, and he gave a wonderful portrayal that blended humor and sentiment to an extent that Fiennes doesn't have a chance to do. I should add that Robbie Coltrane is a nasty piece of work as Jaggers, and very effective with it. In 2011, David Suchet's Jaggers, equally effective, was much more sympathetic, more like a decent man in a nasty business, hence the hand-washing made sense. So -- even though this movie has some real strengths that the series doesn't (mainly in the younger characters' casting), I've come to feel that one really needs a series to do justice to the book. The moral center has to be Pip's grown-up travails, and one needs to see these develop over time to have plausibility. Newell's scriptwriters do a fine job of getting a lot of information to us, but a lot of it is in narration by characters. We need to see more and hear about it less.

Of course, the whole opening movement of the book is almost begging to be dramatized, and all three versions I've seen so far are marvellously effective -- and in the showing of the marsh country, they are the most beautifully realized part of the book in sheer visual terms. There's so much to get into Pip's London story that it must be much more difficult to condense and dramatize, and yet that's where the moral interest of the story lies. My next "Great Expectations," when I get around to it, will be another serialized version. I hear Charlotte Rampling's Miss Havisham is worth seeing. But -- this one is by no means bad.
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