Joe Wright has taken on the task of adapting Neil Gaiman’s next novel, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” This seems like an off-the-wall choice, both for Wright as well as for the studios who put it together. Gaiman is one of the literary world’s greatest fantasy writers, with novels like “Coraline” and “Stardust” made into movies, as well as the comic book property “The Sandman” being one of the greatest fantasy tales ever.
“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” sounds no different. The synopsis states that the story describes a lodger who steals a family’s car and commits suicide in it. This causes evil creatures from beyond to come into our world and the heroes have to everything possible to survive as forces set out to destroy him and his family. This sounds like nothing Joe Wright has ever attempted.
“Pride & Prejudice”
Joe Wright came into the public spotlight in 2005 when he adapted the Jane Austin story “Pride & Prejudice.” This was not a safe task, as the BBC version starring Collin Firth remains a beloved adaptation and one that needs no improvement. However, what he did was create a historical epic that respected the source material and remains as masterful as the BBC version that came before. He pulled magnificent performances out of his cast and proved to be a master filmmaker with some brilliant camera shots.
No matter how great his camera work was in “Pride & Prejudice,” nothing he ever does will probably touch the brilliance of his beach scene from “Atonement.” This is another adaptation of a historical novel, this one about a young sister who destroys the romance between her older sister and her lover due to a misunderstanding. The lover heads off to war and the two never see one another again. The war scene on the beach with James McAvoy was one continuous shot and one of the best one-takes in cinema history.
Taking a break from historical epics, Joe Wright turned to a smaller story about a young girl who was raised by her father to be a deadly human weapon. Eric Bana is a former special agent who has been in hiding for years from his former employers. While there, he trains his daughter, portrayed by “Atonement’s” Oscar nominated actress Saoirse Ronan, to be the perfect assassin. What occurs is a cat and mouse game, and “Hanna” remains his most entertaining film to date.
Following “Hanna,” Wright went back to historical epic adaptations, this one for Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.” While his camera work was always masterful, this was almost an exercise in indulgence. Wright shot all the scenes of Anna’s marriage as it falls apart and she begins an illicit relationship with another man on sound stages. Not only that, but he shows the stages and shoots it like an extended play. He also shoots other scenes in real locations when the story switches to characters living real lives instead of dramatic ones. It was a masterful experiment and one that left some critics puzzled. However, looking at the creativity on hand here, a fantasy adaptation from a Neil Gaiman work remains a very interesting proposition for the brilliant young director.
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