Charles Dickens' tale of life on the hoof in pre-Victorian London has been carried off before in screen adaptations, but no director has ever made the story his own. Small wonder, though. It's hard to improve on Dickens' word-perfect vision of abandoned children being roped down into the great chimney mouth of the Industrial Revolution. Roman Polanski gives us a perfectly acceptable adaptation, but he is content to be yet another back-seat driver to Dickens. He never vivifies his Oliver Twist with the negative energy of his Warsaw nightmares, nor does he make a lasting visual statement. His cameras lack helium; they never rise up and give us a panoramic view of the teeming metropolis as it once was, more Bombay than Buckingham.

categories Cinematical