Tackling an adaptation of a 150-year-old Charles Dickens novel, especially one that has already been brought to the screen at least a dozen times in various forms, is a daunting task indeed. What do you change? What do you freshen up? Well, if you’re Mike Newell, who directed a new adaptation, the answer to those last two questions (at least based on this new clip) is “very little.” The brief clip of the BBC co-production, shows Jeremy Irvine as Pip and Ralph Fiennes as the mysterious Magwitch, in what appears to be their first meeting since encountering each other many years before and it is, more or less, exactly what you’d expect.
The clip, courtesy of Empire, is moodily lit by frequent Ridley Scott collaborator John Mathieson and Fiennes seems to have set his line delivery to “extra British,” but beyond that, it doesn’t leave much of an impact. Irvine seems fine as the iconic Pip, and Newell’s direction seems handsome enough, though we’re still waiting to be wowed.
While watching we couldn’t help think back to Alfonso Cuaron’s flawed but fascinating 1998 adaptation, which modernized, revamped, and relocated the action of the Dickens’ novel in some pretty profound ways. Robert De Niro played Magwitch and Ethan Hawke played Pip in that version, and while it didn’t completely work (Mitch Glazer and David Mamet were among those who contributed to the stew of a screenplay), it was fresh and interesting and frequently arresting, both visually and on a storytelling level.
This new “Great Expectations” will have its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this month before closing out the London Film Festival a month later. And while it hasn’t been scheduled for domestic release yet or even have a stateside distributor, depending on the festival word of mouth, it could find a home and release date very soon.