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Apt Pupil 1998 ***

 

Bryan Singer seems to make nothing but comic-book movies these days; a pity, because his straight dramas (The Usual Suspect) are very accomplished, and 1998’s Stephen King adaptation Apt Pupil is a subversive delight. The later Brad Renfro plays Todd Bowden, who discovers that his elderly neighbor Kurt Dussander (Sir Ian McKellern) is a Nazi war criminal. Bowden blackmails Dussander, forcing him to tell stories about his past in return for the boy’s silence to the authorities. Although previous attempts to film King’s story with James Mason and then Richard Burton failed due to the failing health of the actors, McKellern is more than up to the task, and there’s a powerful irony in the way that the stories of Nazi atrocities inspire Bowden to get a grip of his Californian life. Apt Pupil is a disturbing, thoughtful movie that will provoke debate and discussion; it refuses to put war crimes in a box, and suggests that the motives behind the unforgivable genocides of the past remain latent in modern society.

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