Film Scouts Reviews

"Apt Pupil"

by Thom Bennett

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The sophomore slump&ldots; it happens to everyone form filmmakers to musicians to athletes. There are few things as difficult as trying to follow up a highly touted initial effort with and even better second effort. At all cost you want to avoid being slated as the next in the ever increasing pile of one hit wonders. Often the "I'll show them&ldots;" approach results in an overloaded mess.

Enter, Bryan Singer. After a film that has garnered as much praise and attention as "The Usual Suspects", the inevitable rumblings of "What will he do next?" ensued. How can a young filmmaker live up to such high expectations???

Easy, by making a good film. Although technically not his sophomore effort (Singer also directed a film called "Public Access" before "Suspects") it is certainly being viewed that way. Singer's film version of the Steven King novella "Apt Pupil" is an unflinching examination of the relationship between a teenaged boy (Brad Renfro) who has become obsessed with an old man in his town (Ian McKellen) who he knows to have been the head of a Nazi death camp during the Holocaust.

The boy attempts to get deep inside the mind of this man who would rather forget his horrible past and learn what could make a person do what he did. The result is an astounding effort with amazing performances by both Renfro and McKellen. Credit director Bryan Singer with maintaining the escalating levels of tension throughout the film without pandering to the viewer and trying to make these characters at all sympathetic.

The film is paced perfectly as the boy's obsession spins gradually out of control. Taken form the same collection as both "Stand By Me" and "The Shawshank Redemption", "Apt Pupil" is a gripping character study of a man who cannot escape his past and his young pupil won't let him forget it.

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