“I love Stephen King. This is one of his creepiest stories. Creepy, not necessarily scary. A young teen finds out that his neighbor was a Nazi, heading up a large concentration camp, but now living a quiet life of seclusion and hiding. The boy blackmails his neighbor into telling him all the gory details of the Holocaust, all the things that they won’t teach in school.
As much as I love King’s stories, and love seeing them translated to film, a lot of the adaptations feel very dry. Especially when they’re adapted from short stories and novellas, and really especially when they stick a little too close to the source. So much of what worked with Shawshank Redemption were embellishments from the original. Apt Pupil does suffer a bit of a plodding script. With the exception of altering the end so that it was a bit less disturbing, it sticks pretty closely to the source, beat by beat. And there really isn’t a whole lot happening minute to minute. But what makes this film incredible is the performances. Brad Renfro as young Todd and Ian McKellan as Kurt Dussander.
I always forget that Bryan Singer directed this, but it was what first brought him and his future Magneto together. I think by now, you don’t need to be sold on the awesome that is Ian McKellan. But if you’re not, or just want to pretend you’re not so you can be sold all over again, just watch any scene of this film. He is singlehandedly responsible for all the creepy and all the weight of this heavy and tough film.
Brad Renfro is also so \m/ intense. I’m sure I’ve written about him before, but his death hit me hard. He’d been a favorite of mine since I was little. Tom & Huck, The Client, The Cure, all such incredible incredible performances at such a young age. I can’t even imagine what kind of roles he could have channeled that into if his career continued. Kids, don’t do drugs!
Unsung hero of this film has to be David Schwimmer. He’s pretty easy to overlook next to those powerhouse performances, but for a film that landed smack in the middle of the Friends heyday, this was quite a departure. Very subtle performance, you can see the good intentions and the hurt of betrayal on his face. Such a strong contrast to our power duo.
Still, to reiterate a point from earlier, don’t do drugs!”