Director: Mike Flanagan
Talent: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson
Release Date: October 31, 2019
Scarred by the events at the Overlook, Dan Torrance now finds himself a grown man, reaped in harrowed regret. Alcohol proves a timely distraction in a quest for peace, a quest swiftly abandons when he meets the precocious Abra. Together, they must face off the virile Rose the Hat, a hunter who feeds off those who “shine” for immortality.
This is a film about identity, identifying itself as both a character study and scenic piece, identifying its structure within the loose remit of sequel, but mostly it’s Stephen King identifying that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining wasn’t the monster he himself would never create.
King’s apathy, acidity and anger towards the Manhattan born director’s work resulted in signing off on a more rigidly faithful TV adaptation that took to the book with adulated precision and a 2013 literary sequel that made no reference to either Jack Nicholson or Shirley Duvall. Kubrick was a visual stylist whose liberal attention to the source works irritated authors, but left an attentive detail mercilessly studied by filmmaking savants Steven Spielberg, Terry Gilliam and Christopher Nolan. It is to director Mike Flanagan’s great credit that Doctor Sleep captures some of the directorial interpolations of the 1980 original while also generating a character study which would likely have pleased the scribe.
Naturally, the film centres on Danny, played by the steely Ewan McGregor. In recent years, his tenure has been of broken characters, as he fought off the demons heroin provided (Trainspotting 2) and lingered for a childhood that abandoned him (Christopher Robin). A ropey American accent besides, McGregor acquits himself well to the role, bringing a steely abandon, unnerved in the endless nerve induced situations. It’s a telling reminder how good an actor McGregor can be when challenged by the right material, and though this film lacks the spine tingling claustrophobia of the original, McGregor works in his double role of hero and mentor, his strongest performance since the charming Big Fish (2003)
He’s helped by the vastness of the cast, landscape and ambition the film holds. Both King and Kubrick agreed The Shining discussed one man’s journey into insanity, while Flanagan turns to the more conventional reluctant hero to bona fide hero with strong results. It’s a film more textured than King’s introspective writings, accomplishing an ensemble performance that boasts a career best turn from Rebecca Ferguson. Leading the True Knot to their psychic feasts, Ferguson’s Rose earmarks herself a villain more chilling than the November air that greets the film’s premiership. And yet the film’s star is neither McGregor nor Ferguson, but the film’s director, unveiling that stands on its own unique feet, trusting of the two men who captured Danny’s nightmares as a child, confident in his nature catching his continued nightmare as adult.
Words: Eoghan Lyng