When Todd Bowden recognizes Kurt Dussander as a Nazi war criminal, he blackmails Dussander into revealing details about the concentration camps.
Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Bruce Davison, Joshua Jackson, Stephen King, Bryan Singer, Brad Renfro, Ian McKellen, Ann Dowd, David Schwimmer, Heather McComb, James Karen, Mickey Cottrell
Information Page: https://www.newonnetflix.info/info/5670368
Stephen King has had a bit of a resurgence recently with “IT” having taken cinemas by storm and both “Gerald’s Game” and “1922” hitting Netflix in recent months. We recently reviewed “The Shawshank Redemption” and it only seems fitting to review another film based on King’s works so last night I fired up “Apt Pupil” for this week’s review.
“Apt Pupil” was originally in the book “Different Seasons” which also gave rise to both “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Stand By Me” so you should already know the source material will be of high quality. The film was released in 1998 so is a nearly 20 year old Stephen King movie still worth watching?
Todd (Brad Renfro) is a grade-A student who, after learning the basics of the holocaust in history class, actually listens to his teacher and heads to the library to do some extra research. What he learns is that one of his neighbours Arthur Denker (Ian McKellen) is, in fact, a wanted Nazi war criminal. After a lot of work and research, Todd approaches Denker with his new-found knowledge and blackmails him to tell him more stories about his role in the holocaust.
Denker, now an American citizen, reluctantly goes along with it – it’s still better than the Israelis getting their hands on him after all. However, it appears that he doesn’t want to have to remember the atrocious acts he carried out under Himler in the concentration camps. Todd on the other hand is actually quite sadistic and appears to have an obsessive, morbid fascination with Denker’s past – even getting him to dress up in an old uniform at one point.
There are various slow-fades between scenes to show the passage of time (in the book the story is spread over a few years, the movie, however, appears to be over a single school year) and when Todd starts having nightmares and visions about the horrors he is learning about those scenes take on a faded blue look. Visually it works well and adds an extra element to the story.
It doesn’t take too long for Denker to realise just how much control Todd has over him so Denker, too, blackmails Todd and this is where the real power-struggles begin. The both bring out the evil in each other and as Todd’s grades start to slip the pair seem to form a strange kind of friendship. But a friendship built on two sets of blackmail is never going to end well…
It’s difficult to say much more without getting into spoiler territory but there are murders, back-stabbing and plenty of plot-twists throughout the rest of the story! Oh, and rather funny looking David Schwimmer trying to look serious with an epic moustache.
The main characters are very believable and invite the viewer to ask themselves how far they would go to protect themselves. The story is gripping, thought-provoking at times and very clever. The plot-twists are carefully crafted and executed and, with “Apt Pupil”, you are left with a very good psychological thriller.
Have you seen this film? Let us know your opinions in the comments below and of course if there are any films on Netflix UK you want us to review let us know!