Ben Kingsley as Fagin
Barney Clark as Oliver Twist
Jamie Foreman as Bill Sykes
Harry Eden as The Artful Dodger
Leanne Rowe as Nancy
Lewis Chase as Charley Bates
Edward Hardwicke as Mr. Brownlow
Jeremy Swift as Mr. Bumble
Mark Strong as Toby Crackit
Frances Cuka as Mrs. Bedwin
Chris Overton as Noah Claypole
Michael Heath as Mr. Sowerberry
Gillian Hanna as Mrs. Sowerberry
Alun Armstrong as Mr. Fang
Oliver Twist (Barney Clark) is an orphan trying to find his place in the world and soon finds himself under the care of Fagin (Ben Kinglsey) an aging petty thief and his partner, the vile Bill Sykes (Jamie Foreman).
The latest version of “Oliver Twist,” from acclaimed director Roman Polanski (“Chinatown,” “The Pianist”), perfectly captures Dickens particular view of life in 18th century England equal parts crushing apathy and often tragically funny inhumanity. In the midst of this is thrust young Oliver, looking for nothing more than the dignity due to him as a human being and despite being denied at every turn never looses his own sense of decency, the one thing that separates him from the broken people around him.
Polanski tells the story straightforwardly with few flourishes (allowing the ones he does go for – the world brightens into Technicolor glory when things go well for Oliver, and descend to a desaturated ashy gray when everything falls apart for him – to exist with their own power), letting the actors and their words do the work. Polanski is working at the height of his craft here.
Kingsley does an excellent Fagin but it’s no tour-de-force, nor does it need to be. It’s an ensemble, and the cast works together like clockwork.
Its only real weakness is it’s pacing, but it’s unavoidable. Even at two and a half hours, there’s a lot of Dickens to squeeze in and occasionally it feels a bit rushed.
“Oliver Twist” is an affecting and refreshing adaptation of Dickens seminal work from a master director.
“Oliver Twist” is rated PG-13 for disturbing images.