It is 1888 in London, and the unfortunate poor lead horrifying lives in the city's deadliest slum, Whitechapel. Harassed by gangs and forced to walk the streets for a living, Mary Kelly and her small group of companions trudge on through this daily misery, their only consolation being that things can't get any worse. Yet things somehow do when their friend Ann is kidnapped and they are drawn into a conspiracy with links higher up than they could possibly imagine. The kidnapping is soon followed by the gruesome murder of another woman, Polly, and it becomes apparent that they are being hunted down, one by one. Sinister even by Whitechapel standards, the murder grabs the attention of Inspector Fred Abberline, a brilliant yet troubled man whose police work is often aided by his psychic abilities. Abberline becomes deeply involved with the case, which takes on personal meaning to him when he and Mary begin to fall in love. But as he gets closer to the truth, Whitechapel becomes more and ...
The best thing about an enduring mystery is that people can feel free to take all sorts of liberties with the facts and create interesting "what if" scenarios. FROM HELL is a perfect example. For the record, the theory behind the killings is pretty much right out of JACK THE RIPPER: THE FINAL SOLUTION by Stephen Knight, and it's been pretty well discredited since it first came out twenty years ago, even though it makes a hell of an entertaining piece of fiction.
I completely discount any criticisms of the movie where people say "it didn't happen that way". Of course it didn't; that's why this is a fictional film and not a documentary. It's very loosely based on the Alan Moore graphic novel, and about all it retains of it is the Duke of Clarence theory and the stylish look of the architecture. It's enough to make the film beautiful to watch.
Yes, I know that four of the five victims of Jack the Ripper were women in their late 40's, which on the streets of Victorian London would mean that they would resemble crones in their late 60's or early 70's. Just try to make that fly past a Hollywood studio boss; the casting at least had women who looked fairly human rather than like fallen glamour girls. I've read a couple of comments disparaging the accents. Actually, Cockney accents were the norm in the street because people tried to blend in and often weren't eager to advertise Scottish or Irish origins.
I call special attention to the performance of Jason Flemyng in the role of Netley, the coachman, arguably the most fascinating and believable character in the whole production. Most of his best scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, unfortunately, and yet he still manages to pull the movie together into a cohesive whole just by his presence. (It must have been a heck of a fun role to play!) As well, Sir Ian Holm deserves special mention for stepping in when the original choice for his role, Sir Nigel Hawthorne, tragically became ill and died just before the film went into production. I have never seen Sir Ian in any role that I didn't find completely believable, and that ranges all the way from KING LEAR to his role in ALIEN, for heaven's sake.
My interest in the whole Jack the Ripper case has been reawakened thanks to this movie, and I'm trying to hunt down a copy of Alan Moore's graphic novel (which is very difficult to find). No, it's not even close to an approximation of what really happened; nobody will ever know the truth, Patricia Cornwell's arrogant claims notwithstanding. It's still worth renting, if only for the beautifully ominous score and the fascinating transformation of Prague into Victorian London. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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