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Writer/Dir: Rowan Joffe - feture film directorial debut
Cast: Sam Riley, Helen Mirren, Andrea Riseborough, John Hurt, Andy Serkis, Phil Davis, Nonso Anozie, Craig Parkinson, Sean Harris
Reason to see: The book was the November 2011 Selection for the Book to Film Club
I was very excited to finally get to see Brighton Rock as it was our November 2011 Book to Film Club selection, and although it did release in the UK, New York & LA in 2011 it didn't make up to my neck of the woods here in Toronto. The film is an adaptation of the Graham Greene novel that follows gang activity in Brighton, and specifically hones in on the character of young Pinkie played by Sam Riley (Control, Franklyn). This film adaptation changes the period from the 1930s to the modern 1960s and although I love mods I was a little confused at the switch over, even though the styling is definitely one the things I enjoyed most of the film. The cast of characters is flushed out with young Rose (played by Andrea Riseborough), a mousy girl who becomes inadvertently connected to shady characters and her boss Ida (played by Helen Mirren) who is a sly stickler for the justice that doesn't like to see people go down the right path.
In terms on an adaptation, I was impressed by the overwhelming sense of forces against everyone that they build up through the music, sound and visuals which is very effective. There is definitely a tone of destruction and a force with a huge power behind it. This is nicely contrasted with the vacation-like setting that has its own seedy underbelly that pitches the pretty against the painful. Although there are only some changes in the story from the book, I was mostly okay with them as the often fitting with the time better and helped align some of the characters so I can see why most of those choices were made. I was very surprized and disappointed though in some of the changes or choices with both the Pinkie and the Ida characters. I'll preface this by saying the book was quite a challenge to read and very much outside my comfort zone but what kept me drawn in was the uniqueness of the perspective of Pinkie who in the book we get to see more internally and then with Ida who was brash and bold and didn't have a care in the world to these thugs. With Pinkie they just left out some of the most interesting parts of his character, and although I always found his motivations were clear in the film I couldn't empathize with his character at all and in the book I found a way to. With Ida, they just went a different direction in the film making her more motherly, concerned and womanly which was there in the book but I always felt like she was our of place or against the odds and in the film she felt in her element. It's an interesting choice, and certainly something that I wouldn't question at all had I not read the book.
I enjoyed Brighton Rock for its stylish turning of the times and the story, and it clearly got across the darkness of the journey of a young man craving power and avoiding loss, but I felt it much harder to connect with the characters than I had hoped for. The performances are very good though, and it's a challenging story to tell and I think they made some interesting choices but it made me realize how strongly I felt about different parts of the story were the ones that drew me in. It also reminded me how well I had remembered and understood the book, which honestly was not the experience I was feeling like I was having at the time! That was a fascinating comparative experience for sure.
See also my book review of Brighton Rock by Graham Greene here.
- Interviews with producer Paul Webster, writer/director Rowan Joffe, actors Sam Riley, Andrea Risenborough, Helen Mirren, Phil Davis, Nonso Anozie, Craig Parkinson, Sean Harris & John Hurt
Brighton Rock is available on DVD as of January 10, 2012. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com
Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it, but wanted to love it
I'd watch it again
I'd recommend it to fans of period and/or crime films
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© Shannon Ridler, 2012
A scene from BRIGHTON ROCK, an Alliance Films release.
Helen Mirren as Ida in BRIGHTON ROCK, an Alliance Films release.