Tuesday 26 October 2010

Review: Brighton Rock (2010) @ the London Film Festival

The BFI Members Special Screening at the London Film Festival last night was Rowan Joffé’s new adaptation of Graham Greene’s 1938 novel Brighton Rock. It turned out to be a solid choice. Much more grandiose than the classic 1947 Boulting Brothers’ version, which starred Richard Attenborough in perhaps his best-ever screen performance as the boy-gangster Pinkie Brown, this new version might be described as Epic Catholic Noir. But don’t let that put you off. Though over-wrought at times the film is mostly terrific: gripping, involving, and a far more satisfying Greene adaptation than Neil Jordan’s ultimately unconvincing The End of the Affair (1999). Updating the story to 1964 (complete with Mods and Rockers clashes), Joffé makes terrific use of the locations and pitches the period detail just right. But the greatest pleasure of the film is in the performances. Sam Riley (of Control [2007]) makes for a sexier Pinkie than did Attenborough, and brings danger and tension to all of his scenes. Angela Riseborough is stunningly good as Rose, the girl who loves him, in a performance that’s far more varied than - but just as moving as - Carol Marsh’s turn in the earlier film. Phil Davis (underused in Mike Leigh’s Another Year [2010]) makes an impact as Spicer, while Helen Mirren brings passionate conviction (and great hints of fading glamour) to the role of Ida, who desires nothing more than to see Pinkie swing. As in the Boultings’ version, the ending here cops out, sparing Rose her discovery of “the worst horror of all.” But no matter: this is a compelling and entertaining take on the novel and it deserves to do well.


  1. Gosh, they must have shown a completely different version to the one I saw on Sunday night, which was the worst film I've seen all festival. Overblown, badly written, too long and almost entirely pointless.

  2. Well, perhaps they did a hasty re-edit before last night’s screening. :)

    I can understand that some people will find it overblown, but for me there were enough quieter moments to counter-balance that tendency. And I kind of admire Joffe for trying to give the story a full-on melodramatic grandeur. Then there’s the quality of the performances... Certainly didn’t find it either badly written or too long.