Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Modern Twist on a classic tale: Jekyll - a Review

Starring: James Nesbitt, Gina Bellman, Denis Lawson
Director/Studio/Author: Matt Kinsey, Douglas McKinnon/BBC Worldwide/Steven Moffat
American release date: September 18, 2007
Format/Genre/Length: DVD/Horror/360 minutes
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Tom Jackman (James Nesbitt) has a bit of a problem. On the surface, he seems to have everything he could possibly want—a beautiful wife, Claire (Gina Bellman) who adores him and a set of twin sons that he loves to death. But Tom’s problem lies beneath the surface. He’s just discovered that someone else is sharing his personal space, and this someone else is more than just a facet of Tom’s personality, he’s an entity all of his own that happens to also inhabit Tom’s body. And he’s a psychopath.


Tom leaves his family, for their own protection, but doesn’t offer a reason, and takes a sleazy flat where he installs a chair with a wicked containment system, and a psychiatric nurse, Katherine (Michelle Ryan) to help him keep an eye on things. She helps him keep track of the comings and goings of his alter ego, who is basically an overgrown child as well as devilishly charming. He calls himself Mr. Hyde, after the character in the Robert Louis Stevenson story. Tom sets rules for him, and non-obedience has its consequences, primarily being restrained for long periods of time, which Hyde abhors. He communicates with Hyde by means of a Dictaphone which he always carries with him.

A distraught Claire hires a detective, Miranda, to follow Tom, who reports back that he isn’t having an affair, as she feared. But Miranda doesn’t tell Claire all that she’s found out. Claire confronts Tom, demanding to know what’s going on. He traces the photographs back to Miranda and her pregnant partner, Min. He tells her he knows she’s been following him, he’s seen the big black van. While Miranda admits to her surveillance, she tells him he has other problems—she doesn’t own a big black van.

In searching for the truth, Tom begins to wonder if somehow he is related to Stevenson’s original Dr. Jekyll, and that maybe the story wasn’t the piece of fiction everyone believes it to be. All roads lead to Rome, and what he learns threatens the lives of everyone around him, as a hundred year old plot is uncovered. The lines between good and evil become blurred, and it’s hard to tell which side is which, and which side will emerge victorious.


The entirety of Jekyll is six short episodes, which is a travesty. I could have kept watching for a lot longer, I was so intrigued by the characters. But the BBC, in its infinite wisdom, stopped there, for its own reasons. The series was penned by veteran Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat. Quite the pedigree, eh? Interestingly, when David Tennant announced his departure from that long-running series, apparently James Nesbitt was mentioned as a possible replacement, but he declined the role, saying he could not follow in the footsteps of Tennant and Eccleston. But I digress.

This show will pull you in from the beginning, from the first image of the chair in the flat. It’ll keep you guessing and speculating and trying to keep ahead of what’s going on trying to second-guess the truth. But chances are you’ll still be wrong.

James Nesbitt is brilliant as Tom Jackman/Hyde. He plays both roles to perfection, and at times you forget that they aren’t two different men. They look different, sound different, move differently and act differently. Hyde is a hedonist, an amoral child who does what he wants, when he wants, and has no interest in the consequences.  He is also quite charming, and fascinating to watch.

At first, I really didn’t like Tom’s wife Claire, and her poor me I want my husband back brand of sniveling. But as the series progressed, I saw her in a different light, and came to appreciate her as a person. By the end, I saw her as a worthy mate to Tom, and the perfect foil for Mr. Hyde. An interesting side note on the actor who plays Tom’s best friend, Peter Syme – he played a pilot in the Star Wars film, and inspired his nephew to go into acting also, and years later he too played in Star Wars films. The nephew’s name, by the way, was Ewan McGregor.

The acting is superb, the writing quick-witted and fascinating. There is never a dull moment, especially not when Mr. Hyde is around. It’s only six hours long, but it’s a fascinating six hours, and a journey I heartily recommend. In the hierarchy of films that deal with the infamous case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I place this series at the top. If you enjoy this, find the soundtrack to the musical version of Jekyll and Hyde, as sung by Robert Cuccioli. But be warned not to bother with the DVD, for that contains David Hasselhoff in the title role and is to be avoided at all costs because oh my God, he can neither sing nor act. Just saying.

Side note: I find it interesting and sometimes amusing when British actors take on an American accent. I imagine the British feel the same way when Americans attempt theirs.

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