Adapting a novel into a quality, well-structured, faithful film can be a difficult task, and one which directors often fail to execute, but when they do, we are left with artistic legacies of multimodal magnificence. With David Fincher’s latest success in bringing Gone Girl to the screen from Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel, Alex has compiled a top 5 of other recent adaptations you ought to watch, but only after reading their source of course.
5. Life of Pi
With visual splendour in abundance, Ang Lee’s adaptation certainly does justice to the more magical parts of Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winning novel. There is also a more philosophical undercurrent about what’s real and what’s not, and in a story about a boy on a boat with only a hyena, zebra, orangutan and tiger for company, that may seem paramount.
In my view, Life of Pi goes very off-piste towards the end in its handling of one major aspect of the plot, but manages to recover things quite intelligently. It’s beautiful, it’s thought-provoking, and it has animals – what more do you want? It also won Ang Lee the 2012 Oscar for Best Director. Watch it roar, and you won’t be disappointed.
4. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
John Le Carré’s classic, complicated spy novel was difficult enough to pull off as a TV series in 1979, and is even harder to condense into a two-hour film, but Tomas Alfredson manages it with this 2011 adaptation.
The book is a labyrinthine tale of the quest to uncover the identity of a Soviet mole within MI6, and the film has to run from the get-go just to keep up. It does a surprisingly good job of things. With everything filmed in a sea of murky colours, an entirely different world of double meanings and quiet glances is conveyed with aplomb.
With terrific performances, a great sense of time and place and a palpable sense of unease, the film does Le Carré proud. It might get a bit rushed in places, but it’s a superlative effort nonetheless. For all the froideur, acting prowess and parallels to the present, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is well worth a look.
3. Cloud Atlas
A mysterious patchwork, Cloud Atlas (based on the David Mitchell book) features six interlocking stories set in different eras, and plays around with narrative. The film’s main actors play multiple parts across the various storylines, and instead of doing half a story at a time and working outwards then backwards (as per the book), the film runs all the stories at the same time. Confusing, yes, but well worth your time.
It’s an inspiring, quirky little endeavour, and one which may be talked about for a long time to come. They may need nearly three hours, but the directors do justice to Mitchell’s grand vision. Plus you get to see Tom Hanks do loads of voices – it’s a winner all round.
2. The Great Gatsby
Having only read the book about a year ago for the first time (shamefully for an English student), I was apprehensive about the famously over-the-top Baz Luhrmann film version of The Great Gatsby. Strangely enough, I needn’t have been – the garishness and lurid colours fit Fitzgerald’s world of excess quite well, and Leonardo DiCaprio excels as the idealistic Gatsby.
The 2013 adaptation has moments of utmost loyalty to the source material. In parts it sticks to the book word-for-word, and there’s a particularly nice flourish towards the end. Catch it if you can, though be sure to read the book first – there’s a kind of beauty on the pages that the film just can’t match.
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
In general, the Harry Potter films are fairly faithful to the books, but Deathly Hallows Part 2 is perhaps the most unwavering adaptation of the lot. The finale is slavishly close to the portion of the book it covers, only deviating a few times. Some of its minor offshoots actually enhance the cinematic storytelling too, which is a rare thing.
The young actors all flourish in their roles at just the right time, and everyone puts across a great sense of their endangered characters, making everything matter that much more in the magically memorable climax. It’s made with real heart and soul, and that’s what translates most from the book, and what warrants its place as the top book-to-film adaptation of recent years.
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On the whole a good list, though the Harry Potter films post PoA pale in comparison to their source material. I’d question the inclusion of Harry Potter, and instead I’d probably put The Hunger Games or Catching Fire in the top spot, as they are pretty much the closest book to film adaptations I’ve ever seen imo.