A modern retelling of a Dickens’ classic with a little extra twist.
By Narelle Wood
In this remaking of Charles Dickens’ classic, directed by Martin Owen, Twist offers a fresh ending that addresses issues of exploitation, and provides some consequences for bad behaviour.
Filmed in a style that is something more akin to a Guy Richie action film in parts, the opening sequence follows a fast-paced parkour action sequence. This sets up not only the modern retelling, but the intrigue and misadventure that ensues. Owen’s direction slows throughout the film, replaced by an action-inspired soundtrack to help create a sense of urgency.
Young Oliver (played by both Samuel Leakey and Finley Pearson), all though brief in appearance, captures the naivety, sadness and grief that produces the older, wiser and self-sufficient Twist (Raff Law). With a disregard for authority and a need to belong and survive, Twist meets and befriends Dodge (Rita Ora), Batesy (Franz Drameh) and Red (Sophie Simnett), and is introduced into the seductively comfortable but manipulative underworld that Fagan (Michael Caine) has created. Fagan soon sees Twist’s potential as an advantage to his crew, and the sense of family offered by Fagan soon becomes apparent to Twist. The remake plays up the heist and thievery nature of the Oliver Twist original with interactions between Fagan andBill Sykes (Lena Headey) providing a glimpse into the real danger in the world these characters inhabit.
Stripped of the song and dance numbers the fans of the musical will be familiar with, the grit and devastation is at times more pronounced. The overt nature of some of the manipulation and, well to put it bluntly, grooming, I found to be a little uncomfortable, especially in contrast to the lighter feeling attempts at ‘street cred’ through the use of graffiti and parkour. The contrast between the street and the underworld was perhaps a little too great, making the twist ending plausible but perhaps a little bit too light.
There are some other points of unevenness, but I think it’s to be expected when you play with the very familiar storyline that is Oliver Twist, and put the experience of Caine and Headey up against the younger cast of Law, Ora, Drameh, and Simnett. That’s not to say these young actors don’t do a fabulous job, they absolutely do, just that Caine and Headey play the characters with an unquantifiable ease.
This is probably not going to hit the mark with die-hard Dickens traditionalists, but it is an interesting look at this previously dark children’s tale. It’s a grim tale with a lighter and satisfying ending.