Roman Polanski’s “Oliver Twist,” 2005  » Movies  »
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  • I was not disappointed, but I wasn't very impressed, either
  • Those in charge are outraged by it, they all agree that this boy will be hung someday
  • This scene is done very well, I like it here much better than in another version I've seen where Oliver only pushes the guy and maybe gives him a punch or two before the others intervene and stop the fight

    • by Lorianna
      all reviews
      I went to see Roman Polanski’s 2005 release of “Oliver Twist” a couple of days ago. I was not disappointed, but I wasn’t very impressed, either. One of the good points is that the story is not in any way “Hollywoodized,” it is told in a straight, true-to-the-source way. Barney Clark playing Oliver Twist does an excellent job, although that’s a given: if you make a movie with a child for a central character, you’d better make sure you find a good actor for the role. The movie begins with Oliver, an orphan raised by the parish, being dragged to the workhouse. We never see his mother in this version, and Oliver’s parenthood is never established, not even in the end - a big part of the story missing right there. He remains an unknown orphan throughout.

      Oliver stays in the workhouse together with many other boys, mistreated and underfed, until he proves to be a very


      dangerous fellow by asking for some more food. Those in charge are outraged by it, they all agree that this boy will be hung someday. The workhouse seeks to get rid of Oliver. The boy is apprenticed to Mr. Sowerberry (Michael Heath), the coffin-maker, who appears to be a mild, good-natured man. However, his wife is the opposite.

      Oliver gets his share of abuse from her and from Noah Claypole (Chris Overton) the other apprentice who is older and bigger and therefore thinks it his duty to be mean to “Workhouse,” as he calls Oliver. Oliver puts up with it, but one day, when Claypole starts to badmouth his dead mother, Oliver explodes and gives him a good thrashing. This scene is done very well, I like it here much better than in another version I’ve seen where Oliver only pushes the guy and maybe gives him a punch or two before the others intervene and stop the fight. No, here he lets the detestable Mr. Claypole have it, much to the viewers’ satisfaction. The rebellion, of course, does not go unpunished.

      Oliver is flogged by his master, Mr. Sowerberry, who is clearly on his side but does not want to get in trouble with his stern wife. Oliver runs away after this and heads to London. There he meets Artful Dodger, played very well by Harry Eden, a pickpocket who takes him to his “boss,” Fagin. Fagin (Ben Kingsley), an old man running a pickpocket ring, is a bit too soft and too nice in this version. Dickens was accused of anti-Semitism for the way he had depicted this character, so I guess that might be the reason the creators of this movie decided to polish him up.

      Fagin accepts Oliver into the group. The boy thinks that all this is a funny game, until he is sent out with Dodger and another ...


      • Roman Polanski's
      boy to his first “working” day on the streets. A pickpocketing attempt goes wrong and Oliver is arrested. Thankfully, there is a witness who proves him innocent. Oliver, very sick after he was hit in the face during the chase, ends up in the house of Mr. Brownlow (Edward Hardwicke), a kind-hearted old gentleman.

      Mr. Brownlow grows to like Oliver, but Fagin’s group, scared that Oliver might report them to the police, wants him back. They abduct the boy when he goes to return some books to a bookstore, making Mr. Brownlow think that he stole the books and ran away. Later, Bill Sikes (Jamie Foreman), Fagin’s buddy, takes Oliver with him and another thief to rob Mr. Brownlow’s house.

      Oliver makes some noise, on purpose, waking the household. Some shots are fired in the dark, and Oliver is wounded. He is taken back to Fagin who treats him. Mr. Brownlow continues to search for the boy,

      and Sikes, threatened by it, wants to kill Oliver. Eventually, the villains are caught, Oliver’s good name is restored, and he goes back to live with his benefactor.

      If you have never read or watched the Oliver Twist story before, you will enjoy this movie. It is well done, although it does change and leave out some things. But if you’ve seen other adaptations, you might find yourself thinking, “Why make one more?” I guess what I’m saying is, when you are making a movie based on a well known classic that has been filmed so many times, you’d better have a reason for it. Why do you want to re-tell the story once more? Do you have something new to say? Have you found something that other productions have overlooked? With this movie, I personally failed to see such a reason. It is a decent version, but by no means something breathtaking that would surpass all the others.




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    The review was published as it's written by reviewer in October, 2005. The reviewer certified that no compensation was received from the reviewed item producer, trademark owner or any other institution, related with the item reviewed. The site is not responsible for the mistakes made. 114107821131/k2311a104/10.4.05
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