Note: The review was contributed byRyan Stewart.
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.
To twist, in Cockney parlance, is to hang. The title is properly read as 'Oliver Doomed' or 'Oliver Damned.' So it goes without saying that the child actor who bottles himself into the role should be gaunt, sallow, and capable of criminality. This Oliver, played by newcomer Barney Clark, seems more apt to be hawking toys and burgers between shows on the beeb. He reads the lines well, but he seems a little too well-fed and adoptable to play a starving orphan that nobody wants. It would have been a mistake to cast older, however. Polanski can be congratulated for not casting almost-twenty-somethings in the pivotal roles of the children.