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Darkly stylish--not based on reality.
8/10 The best thing about an enduring mystery is that people can feel free to take all sorts of liberties with the facts and create interesting "what if" scenarios. FROM HELL is a perfect example. For the record, the theory behind the killings is pretty much right out of JACK THE RIPPER: THE FINAL SOLUTION by Stephen Knight, and it's been pretty well discredited since it first came out twenty years ago, even though it makes a hell of an entertaining piece of fiction.5 years ago
I completely discount any criticisms of the movie where people say "it didn't happen that way". Of course it didn't; that's why this is a fictional film and not a documentary. It's very loosely based on the Alan Moore graphic novel, and about all it retains of it is the Duke of Clarence theory and the stylish look of the architecture. It's enough to make the film beautiful to watch.
Yes, I know that four of the five victims of Jack the Ripper were women in their late 40's, which on the streets of Victorian London would mean that they would resemble crones in their late 60's or early 70's. Just try to make that fly past a Hollywood studio boss; the casting at least had women who looked fairly human rather than like fallen glamour girls. I've read a couple of comments disparaging the accents. Actually, Cockney accents were the norm in the street because people tried to blend in and often weren't eager to advertise Scottish or Irish origins.
I call special attention to the performance of Jason Flemyng in the role of Netley, the coachman, arguably the most fascinating and believable character in the whole production. Most of his best scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, unfortunately, and yet he still manages to pull the movie together into a cohesive whole just by his presence. (It must have been a heck of a fun role to play!) As well, Sir Ian Holm deserves special mention for stepping in when the original choice for his role, Sir Nigel Hawthorne, tragically became ill and died just before the film went into production. I have never seen Sir Ian in any role that I didn't find completely believable, and that ranges all the way from KING LEAR to his role in ALIEN, for heaven's sake.
My interest in the whole Jack the Ripper case has been reawakened thanks to this movie, and I'm trying to hunt down a copy of Alan Moore's graphic novel (which is very difficult to find). No, it's not even close to an approximation of what really happened; nobody will ever know the truth, Patricia Cornwell's arrogant claims notwithstanding. It's still worth renting, if only for the beautifully ominous score and the fascinating transformation of Prague into Victorian London. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Simply a fantastic movie
9/10 The critics, nit-pickers and historical pedants who've trashed this superb piece of truly cinematic movie-making have totally missed the point.5 years ago
So what if Johnny Depp's English accent isn't exactly "right" for his character? (English accents have always been problematic for all but the most skilled of American actors: Depp pulls it off entirely passably, way way better than - say - Keanu Reeves, risible in Coppola's Dracula. Think of Kevin Costner, who didn't even bother trying in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.) I'm a Londoner by birth, and for me the accent in no way detracted from Depp's excellent performance.
As for history, again, who cares if the filmmakers have employed a degree of dramatic licence? This is a movie, not a documentary. Nobody knows for sure who Jack the Ripper was, and in order to make the film interesting and enjoyable the writers have speculated a little. Fine by me.
OK, so Heather Graham was impossibly glamorous, but movies with big budgets need a little bit of star appeal. The notion of the "tart with a heart" is a cliche, sure, but nevertheless her character works in the context of the film. (Contrast the depiction of prostitution generally in this film with the utter garbage that is Pretty Woman.)
What's so great about this film? The quirky, literate script; the performances (all, with the possible exception of Graham, excellent); the wonderful photography and production design; the depiction of the murders themselves - elliptical, shocking, mesmerising; and above all the aura of brooding menace, gloom, cruelty, darkness, melancholy and downright despair running through it as deeply as the veins through a block of marble. This is marvellously thoughtful, evocative film-making, very bold and brave. No happy Hollywood ending, no phoney saccharine or cheap laughs to satisfy the popcorn brigade. This is a proper grown-ups movie that probes some of the darkest regions of the human psyche, places mainstream filmmakers like Lucas, Spielberg, James Cameron and their ilk don't dare to go, or couldn't go even if they wanted to. To me it appeals almost on a subconscious level, forcing us to confront our deepest fears and taboos - death, pain, suffering, human wickedness. I can't think of a recent major release that is so relentlessly downbeat.
Don't let the detractors put you off. It's hardly surprising a generation weened on MTV - folk with the the attention span of a gnat and the emotional depth of a paper cup - didn't like it. They've got their Screams and their Scary Movies, and they're welcome to them. This is super stuff, and the Hughes brothers and their collaborators should be heartily congratulated for it.
A classic, not so much for the plot, which is a little contrived, but for its sure command of cinema as a visual storytelling medium.
A psychotropic thriller
9/10 There are many things in media that have nearly insurmountable preconceptions that lead to generic truisms. One of these is 'comic books are pure fluff,' and another is 'no good movie is ever based on a comic book'.5 years ago
From Hell is a project that takes both of those truisms and tosses them completely out the window. Based on an ambitious graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Eddie Campbell, From Hell (named for the signature on the Jack the Ripper letters written to the police), is one man's carefully researched theory into the eternal mystery surrounding the Whitechapel murders of 1888.
This is not a factual display of guilt or innocence, as many of the answers behind these crimes will never be known, but as theory mixed with fact, it creates with chilling detail the mood of lower-class London in the late nineteenth century, where life was cheap, bloody and oftentimes short.
The Hughes brothers, noted for their stylish direction, do a very good job of creating the mood here, involving all the grunginess and hopelessness of the streets, and combining the more mystical elements of Moore's story into the crime tale. Johnny Depp is Inspector Abberline - an opium-smoking criminal investigator that often follows up on hunches he receives during moments of hallucinatory revelation.
The style of the film - dripping with violent murder of prostitutes in alleyways - leaves more to the imagination than it reveals, although the gore level is by no means light. The vicious throat-slashes and bloody crime scenes are definitely grotesque, but most of the time we are shown the crime after the fact, letting the viewer decide how horrible the murder itself was.
All the performances are strong, fitting together into an ensemble piece, with Depp being as much a chameleon as ever as Abberline, and Robbie Coltrane equally strong as his colleague Godfrey. Ian Holm, Heather Graham, and Ian Richardson also provide good supporting roles.
For an historical perspective of the Jack the Ripper crimes, best to watch an A&E documentary. But for a theoretical description of the crimes, and an artful depiction of a carefully constructed tale, definitely check out the very chilling, very calculated, and very good From Hell.
Interesting spin on the tale, if not particularly memorable
6/10 "From Hell" is an interesting spin on the familiar Jack the Ripper tale, using the iconic cultural image of the cloaked man with the top hat as the source for a spin-off not of history, but of a graphic novel.5 years ago
The lead performance by Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline (who really existed in 1888 at the time of the murders and really was an authority on the case) is wonderful. Depp nails the cockney accent perfectly. Unfortunately, Heather Graham -- as the prostitute Mary Kelley -- is not as fortunate. Although her accent seems to improve throughout the film at various intervals, for most of "From Hell's" duration her British voice is quite stiff and the American twang is audible. The Hughes Brothers did not choose Graham for her acting abilities.
That said, the set design on this production is magnificent. 1880s London is brought to life and Whitechapel has never looked more realistic. The film is an odd hybrid of genres because it maintains the look and feel of a slasher film whilst presenting historical elements and painstaking recreations of actual murders. Robbie Coltrane, as one of the police officers involved in the case, has a lot of fun with his character and is fun to watch, and similarly as convincing as the scenery.
This is a very gritty and gory film -- more so than I ever expected. It's quite a strange beast with hallucinogenic visuals, horror elements and history thrown in for good measure, on top of some slightly modernized techniques. All in all this film kept me entertained because it was unique, and very different, and not particularly because it was "great." I didn't expect a whole lot, but I felt that the movie was directed as ably as it could (or should) have been and the performance by Johnny Depp was deserving of a better film. The ending got a bit carried away, but it still presents a pretty cool twist on the whole Jack the Ripper scenario without totally insulting the intelligence or even upsetting one's sense of history. (Like Disney's "Pocahontas.") The respect the filmmakers have for their material shines through and elevates this above what it could have been. Definitely worth seeing, if only for its originality.
"FROM HELL is a dark, compelling horror film... that will stay in your mind for days after watching.
9/10 I had always been fascinated by the story of Jack the Ripper, but surprisingly this was my first film based on the story. From Hell is an outstanding mystery and a dark, moody film. This is the type of film that sticks in your mind days after seeing it. You'll have the image of old Whitechaple in your head. You'll have the terrific murder scenes stuck in your head, but most of all you'll have the image of Jack the Ripper in your head. From Hell will disturb you. It might scare you, and it might even bore you (action fans will not enjoy this film). From Hell is certainly not for everyone, but it certainly was for me.5 years ago
Johnny Depp is fantastic. He is one of my favorite actors, and certainly delivers the goods in From Hell. His performance is perfect, and one of his bests yet. Heather Graham also does a fine job in From Hell. I was surprised with her performance. I'll admit, when I heard she was going to be in the film, I was worried. I mean who doesn't get worried when they find out the same actress who was in Austin Powers 2 is going to be in a Jack the Ripper film. But she did surprise me, although I still think she could have done better.
The Hughes brothers direct this film with such style. The use of colors in the film is beautiful, as is the use of lighting. The camera angles are crazy, and the film turns out a beauty. Trevor Jones' score is great (As a matter of fact, I'm listening to it now), and fits the film perfectly. The music is eerie, creepy, and scary. It's flawless.
The murder mystery is also great. It keeps you guessing the whole way through (I was not successful in guessing who Jack was), and when the killer is revealed, it all makes sense. And let me tell you, From Hell is violent! Although not as gory as I expected it to be, it'll still make you cringe (that throat slash!). A lot of the violence takes place off screen, which lets your imagination run wild, and mine did just that(My head was filled with tons of gory images).
A lot of people call From Hell boring. I can see how they think that, but I disagree completely with that. Sure the film is slow moving, but how fast can a murder mystery movie be? I didn't get bored with the film at all... I was completely absorbed in the film. Another problem people found with this film was the love story, which I have to agree with. Had the love story been more developed, the ending would have been much more depressing, as we would have felt for the characters more (This could be what kept the film from an A+ rating).
As I said before From Hell is great. It is my 3rd favorite film of the year, and my second favorite horror film (this year). It's a dark, compelling film, that is NOT FUN! There is no comic relief, it's all horror. Had it been a little more scary, and had the love story been more developed this film would be an A+. I highly recommend fans stay away, because you'll hate it.this film to fans of Jack the Ripper, and horror fans with patience. Action
From Hell: 9.5/10, A