Based on a best selling novel by Stephen King, a teenage boy named Todd (Brad Renfro) is graduating in his final year of high school. Todd is a “Straight A” student with many options right around the corner after he completes his graduating year.
During the film’s opening sequence Todd is studying WWII at school, in particular the Nazis, and soon becomes hugely obsessed with this topic. To top it off, Todd begins to believe that an older man who lives not too far away from him is, in fact, the Nazi General Kurt Dussander (played by Ian McKellen), who is hiding his true identity and still wanted for many crimes in his past. Todd soon bribes the older man in exchange for telling him everything first hand about his life and times during WWII. But this might be a man Todd shouldn’t be trying to control or bribe.
Two major highlights for this film is the performance and the building tension from our two male leads. Our characters develop a very unusual bond/relationship as an older man becomes a slave to a young boy. The latter is merely thirsty for information and wanting a real taste of this man’s past. The tension is present here because our actors are on point, in particular Sir Ian McKellen. At no point did I feel bored, but I did feel the tension only growing as our story progressed.
While the performance is entertaining and the suspense grows, the film’s ending sadly did disappointment me. I was so disappointed with the film’s conclusion that I had to look up the end from the original novel and compare. Funnily enough, neither ending satisfied me as a story.
Overall, I enjoyed Apt Pupil as a classic Thriller. The film delivers solid performances from start to finish. After the film’s build-up to its central climax, I was a little disappointed by the film’s ending considering the amount of tension that had been built up. Nevertheless, if you’ve never seen this thriller, it is worth your time for those who love an unpredictable and suspenseful thriller from the late ’90s.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden