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TREASURE ISLAND - TV mini-series (2011/12)

Ben Gunn

There have been so many adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island that there could be a strong case for overkill. There are so many other books that have a case for being put on by Sky over the New Year period, some that have been written in the last ten years and that beg to be filmed. However none would have the star quality that greeted viewers over the 2012 New Year's day viewing.

Treasure Island starred the ever impressive Eddie Izzard as the eponymous Long John Silver in a portrayal that hinted at the dark menace that readers will associate with the long loved book but also with a subtle mixture of humor that lies behind the actor's eyes. Alongside Mr. Izzard was a cast so unashamedly good it put almost every other drama over Christmas and New Year in the shade. How many other shows can boast Spooks and Whitechapel star Rupert Penry-Jones as such an unlikable and money chasing Squire? How many programs can have Life on Mars hero Philip Glenister within its ranks and still have room for Hollywood A-listers such as Donald Sutherland and Elijah Wood alongside and in Elijah's case playing the meatiest and interesting role since Lord of the Rings?

For anybody who has seen the abundance of films and remakes over the years it's possible to see the current offering as one of the most credible, the most entertaining and definitely the most cinematographic offering to hit either the big screen or television. The feel and pace of the program was more or less in keeping with the ideal and far removed from the days when shows like this were given a run over 20 odd weeks.

The feeling of loneliness and abandonment was captured throughout; firstly on the desolate moors of Devon and Cornwall, and onto the close confines of the ship and finally through to the thrilling conclusion on the island where the position of the Doctor, played with generous spirit by Daniel Mays, and the Squire were seen to reverse. The portrayal of money and riches obsessed Squire was a world away from anything audiences have come to see in the acting of Rupert Penry-Jones. If this is what the man is truly capable of as an actor it can only be hoped that he gets roles like this in the future.

Treasure Island may have started life as a boy's book of adventures but it may just be the shot in the arm that novels and stories of this quality can expect in the future. A diet of reality television churned out with nauseating regular consistency may finally be at an end!


My review on the two part series of Treasure Island that has been shown on Sky at the New Year. If you haven't seen it or do not know the book then I can't take responsibility for any spoilers. But I did my best!

Finally a raw cut pirate film. Forget about the fanciful dalliances and haberdashery that was brought to you by The Pirates of the Caribbean, and settle down with the real folk. Long John Silver himself.

We are all familiar with the story of Treasure Island. But this fresh take on it make it feel like rather a history documentary that you are watching rather than a film.

The story

Jim Hawkins together with his mother own the Admiral Benbow Inn and are having a hard time after his father died. An old drunken seaman named Billy Bones becomes a long-term lodger at the inn, only paying for about the first week of his stay. Jim quickly realizes that Bones is in hiding and is sea faring visitors. Some months later, Bones is visited by a an old shipmate of Captain flint, a sailor named Black Dog. Black Dog requests the treasure map of Captain Flint. Billy Bones seems to know more than he alludes and hence attacks Black Dog who then flees the Inn.

Soon thereafter a blind man turns up at the Inn by the name of Pew also searching for Billy Bones. After receiving a pirate summons in the form of a Black Spot, Billy Bones drops dead to the floor.

The pirates come knocking early only to find Bones dead and the chest of Flint opened. Later on Jim discovers after having removed only one object from the chest, that he had taken the Flint's logbook and the treasure map to where the loot has been buried. Quickly Jim and Esquire Trelawney plan together to go and find the island on the map. Unknowingly they hire John Silver and his crew to man the Hispaniola.

Things take a turn for the worst very quickly. When they finally get onto the fabled island, the matter of staying alive quickly becomes the moral of the day. Jim runs afoul of Ben Gunn a man who survived the attack of Captain Flint only to find himself on the island on his own.

From then on its "Every man for himself and God for all."

The Cast

Eddie Izzard once again performs with such brilliancy that we can see simply by looking into his eyes the plans that John Silver is working on. He says more when silent than when he speaks, his mere presence in scenes is a point of attention. He is a pivotal point where ever he is at. It is a true delight to see him as a pirate. I am charmed and transfixed by his performance. He took the character and made it his own and John Silver fits him like a second skin.

Toby Regbo is a stunning young performer, I quite enjoy his work. He already has an impressive amount of work under his belt including a part in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. He is most definitely a skilled actor one has to keep in their sights for his future work which I am sure will be quite worth it. His portrayal of Jim was astounding, the strength and bravery was exemplary.

It is always a true delight to see a film with Elijah Wood, and this is no exception. He has come a long way and his acting is still right on the edge and he is going from strength to strength. He was Ben Gunn, you felt his anxiety alongside of yours.

Donald Sutherland's brief appearance as the notorious Captain Flint was a very well chosen one. His innate sense of self importance was overwhelming and a pleasure to see. Rupert Penry Jones has perfected being unlikable. It is a real enjoyment to watch him as Esquire Trelawney and feel your dislike for him rise by the minute. It takes some serious skill to be able to call such wrath upon yourself.

There is an absolute certainty about this film and it's found in the wonderful ensemble cast. It's a powerful dynamic to see one's energy bounce of another's and it raises the level of the film to new heights. I have to say it was a true joy to see this film, it was dragging you along into the adventure and it is a film I am sure to see many times over.


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