Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2015) Review

imagesA sensational adaptation of an acclaimed best seller by Susanna Clarke the BBC’s adventurous and bold miniseries Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell which recently reached its climax on TV is now released on Blu-ray and DVD just in time for viewers to revisit the world of magic and mystery all over again.

Packed with stunning effects, a talented cast and a spellbinding script the tale of two very different English magicians Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell has the production values of a Hollywood blockbuster with the spirit and refinement of a classic British period drama all blended together in a perfect package.

Set over seven parts the story opens in 1806 in a world devoid of any real magic at all with the supernatural arts reduced to the subject of pragmatic and dreary discussion by a group of fusty old fools named The Friends of English Magic.

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These theoretical magicians are convinced that magic died out long ago however when the reclusive Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan) claims to be a practising magician they demand a demonstration.

Silencing the group by making the statues of York Cathedral speak Mr. Norrell decides it is time to step out of the shadows and restore English magic moving to London with his vast library of books and his enigmatic manservant Childermass (Enzo Cilenti) to make his name.imgres

Raising a prominent politician’s wife from the dead Norrell becomes the subject of praise, wonder and abundant attention from all levels of society. However his cautious nature and pedantic pursuit of a strict code and conduct of magic only he controls comes under conflict in the form of the young, handsome and daring Jonathan Strange (Bertie Carvel) a man whose innate talent frustrates and threatens Norrell’s dominance in the mystical domain.

The very antithesis of Norrell, Strange falls into becoming a magician when the love of his life Arabella (Charlotte Riley) demands he do something with his wasted youth. At first collaborating as students and teacher Strange’s skills speedily exceed those of his master especially when he is sent to help out in the Napoleonic wars performing amazing feats that aid the army and cerement his fame back home.

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As the duo grow further apart in both ability, influence and ideals they turn from friends to enemies with Strange becoming obsessed with dark arts and ancient legends and Norrell determined to be the only English magician at any cost, pitting the pair in a perilous battle that will result in tragedy for everyone involved.

Beautifully filmed on marvelous sets and in gorgeous landscapes the scope of the story is epic but the script manages to tell the tale seamlessly, jumping effortlessly between the characters and various threads all the while keeping the viewer engaged and entertained in this gripping gothic tale.

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As Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Bertie Carvel and Eddie Marsan are excellent embodying the flipside of each other’s personalities and crafting complex characters whose noble intentions take them both on different paths into the darkness.

The leads are supported by a great ensemble of actors notably including Alice Englert as Lady Pole whose resurrection drives her insane, Paul Kaye as the crazed and crafty Vinculus and Marc Warren as The Gentleman a supernatural being as malevolent as he is powerful.

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A brilliant adaptation that could be watched a multitude of times Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is unlike anything you will have seen before proving that with an original and notable novel, a visionary bunch of creative talents and a budget like the BBC’s magic really can be brought to life.

Movie Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Trailer:

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