Friday, May 22, 2009

Apt Pupil

Following a movie by a man who can't position a movie, here's one by someone who can.

Apt Pupil is about a kid, played by Brad Renfro, who discovers a Nazi war criminal living right in his back yard. Fascinated by the Nazis and the Holocaust, Renfro decides to get McKellen to tell him all about his Nazi adventures. Of course, Nazi war criminals are a clever bunch, so the plan to have his very own pet Nazi goes quite awry, and between them they manipulate each other, Renfro learning how to properly manipulate people from the old master.

This, like Silence of the Lambs, is something of a psychological horror film. During the narrative, there's really only one body and there's not much in the way of visual gore. The horrors come purely through the script and the acting. McKellen is an absolute genius in here, letting his facial expressions give a nice, subtle indication of the internal workings of his character. You can tell pretty much immediately when he figures out how to manipulate Renfro, but the way he goes about it remains a mystery until the plan is well in action. Renfro isn't McKellen, but he does have a pretty good intense stare that gets a message across.

The film takes the approach of neither showing nor telling but implying. We only hear the gory details of one or two of the Holocaust stories, but they have to be pretty horrific since we see the results of hearing them. Renfro starts by finding them fascinating, and then slowly moves to being ashamed of it as he realizes what's going on. Yet, he's also highly influenced by McKellen's style, and it's suggested he's going to grow up to be an evil rat bastard. The characters are nicely complex, never being completely evil or completely good, though often capable of doing quite inhumane acts.

It's not the best example of the genre, perhaps, but it's a nice character study and does what it aims for quite well. It is, in essence, a good movie, one that isn't quite as interesting as its frankly excessive Wikipedia page would have you believe, but still quite interesting and well worth watching. These are good characters played by good actors in a film made by a good director. So it's good then, and well worth watching.

Also, today is my birthday, so hoorah and hooray!

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