This new adaptation of the Dickens classic by Mike Newell is a worthy update which heightens the relevance and longevity of the novel. It sticks closer to the original novel than the definitive previous film outing by David Lean way back in 1946 whilst its ending is far more ambiguous and less upbeat in keeping with the literary version. Not attempting to replicate the Lean version also lends it a contemporary feel and individuality which is also very much to its credit.
The story-for anyone unfamiliar with it- centres around a young man Pip –played as a grown up by Jeremy Irvine and his real life younger brother Toby as a young boy- who as a child helps an escaped convict and later finds himself in receipt of a lifestyle far removed from his social strata as a lowly blacksmith. His ideas concerning an upwardly mobile move are encouraged by an early introduction into the lofty circles of Miss Havisham portrayed here by Helena Bonham Carter in a role she has probably been rehearsing for throughout her career. An anonymous benefactor provides for Pip to move to London and fulfil his ambitions of becoming a gentleman by taking care of all his bills, lodgings and a generous allowance which will afford him the lifestyle he craves.
All is not as it seems however and dark forces are gathering to conspire against his easy entry into the world of the gentility. He is also to be thwarted in his attempts at attaining the love of his life, the imperious and haughty Estella ( Holliday Grainger).
This version of Great Expectations is extremely well made with some exquisitely and cleverly shot scenes and falls together more than coherently retelling the tale without ever dragging. The performances are well executed with Robbie Coltrane and Helena Bonham Carter playing Robbie Coltrane and Helena Bonham Carter!
Actually both turn in great performances but it is safe to say neither are stretching themselves so well suited to their roles are they. Ralph Fiennes also puts in an appearance as the escaped convict and later benefactor Magwitch. Definitely one of the more enduring works of the Dickens canon its relevance still rings true and transfers itself to this new screen version in a way which should appeal to a modern day audience.