“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
There’s a general thematic rule that resonates amongst the majority of movie fans; we don’t tend to like remakes. Of course that’s perhaps a tad harsh and very much a generalisation but in reference to U.S. remakes of foreign flicks, from personal experience, I often find myself shaking my head and expecting the worst. Not because I’m pretentious or want to bask in the highfaluting arty-farty – and often times – fake perception that Hollywood just can’t make movies like they do internationally, but because it indicates that U.S studios have hit a stumbling block creatively. In saying that, sometimes Hollywood manages to surprise us by delivering a remake that not only stands up to the original but surpasses it.
5. Vanilla Sky (Open Your Eyes – Spain)
Part romantic drama, part head melter, Vanilla Sky sees Tom Cruise star as a rich kid caught between two woman, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz, who after a car accident – and subsequent facial reconstructive procedure – is interrogated about the incident. It’s one of those movies that follows two distinct time lines and gradually leaks revelations along the way. I didn’t love it when I first saw it but it’s definitely worth a second watch. The original Spanish version Abre Los Ojos also starred Penelope Cruz in the exact same role. Verdict – Better
4. Let Me In (Let The Right One In – Sweden)
Based on the novel of the same name Let The Right One In is a dark, suburban drama that follows Oskar, a bullied schoolboy who meets a subdued young girl by the name Eli in the high rise apartment block they co-inhabit. Oskar soon discovers that Eli is a vampire and after some initial reservations they become close friends. The U.S remake stars Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz. It did a phenomenal job of preserving the relationship between the two kids as the elemental factor of the movie without glamorising the vampire aspect, which many remakes may have had the urge to do. Verdict – Better
3. The Magnificent Seven (Seven Samurai – Japan)
Akira Kurosawa is the darling of movie buffs everywhere but it’s important to remember that very little of the western world would be familiar with his fantastic array of work had it not been for this famous ensemble western. Kurosawa was a unique visionary whose overall influence on cinema simply cannot go unwarranted. Much of his work – and especially Seven Samurai – regularly appears on movie polls worldwide, touted by both fans and critics alike. The Magnificent Seven was released in 1960 – six years after the original – and switched the action from politically torn ancient Japan to the Old West, however much of the plot is identical. Despite an early timid reception The Magnificent Seven is now widely regarded as one of the greatest westerns of all time. Verdict – Just as good
2. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Sweden)
Like Let Me In, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo could equally be perceived as another adaptation of the original source material rather than just a U.S. remake of the Swedish movie. There’s probably not many directors out there who could’ve pulled it off quite like David Fincher did. He even manages to get a great performance out of Daniel Craig, but the star of the movie is Rooney Mara as hacker extraordinaire and all round badass bitch Lisbeth Salander. Fincher manages to capture everything that is important from the book. The brooding atmosphere and the drawn out tension between the characters. Considering the worldwide success of the novels and original trilogy, it’s surprising that we haven’t been hit with the sequel yet. Verdict – Just as good
1. The Departed (Infernal Affairs – Hong Kong)
Besides France, Asia is unquestionably the most revisited movie territory in cinematic history. Japan especially has become famous for producing horrors so frightening that the U.S. just can’t help themselves but re-tell. But one of the greatest remakes out of Asia surprisingly isn’t a horror and it doesn’t originate from Japan. Changing the setting from Hong Kong to Boston, Scorsese’s gritty tale of corruption and criminal ganglands earned him his first Academy Award for Best Director and silenced the critics who believed that a remake of Infernal Affairs – already a critically acclaimed masterpiece – would be a step down for Marty. How wrong were they? Check out my full review of The Departed Verdict – Better
Honorable mentions – True Lies (La Totale – France), The Ring (Ringu – Japan), Insomnia (Insomnia – Norway) and 12 Monkeys (La Jetée – France). Disagree with any of my opinions? Then why not cast your vote below.
Gavin Logan – Follow me on Twitter