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Review: Doctor Sleep (2019)

Review: Doctor Sleep (2019)
09 Sep
Not in Hall of Fame


Ewan Mcgregor                         Dan Torrance

Rebecca Ferguson                     Rose the Hat

Kyliegh Curran                          Abra Stone

Cliff Curtis                                 Billy Freeman

Zahn McClarnon                        Crow Daddy

Well it has been a few weeks since my last review, but as we are in the dog days of summer, I have been busy with other outdoor activities instead of writing reviews. That is not to say that I have not watched a few shows lately, but they did not drive me to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard if you will. For example, we did check out Jungle Cruise at the Cineplex the other day. While that movie did include one of our favourite action stars (Dwayne Johnson) we found it to be forced and the chemistry lacking between the main characters. Don’t get me wrong, it was not a bad film, just not as good as his similar outings in Jumanji (1&2). We also watched the film “Rental” on Amazon which outlined the possible horror’s of renting an AirBnB. Even with some solid actors, the plot was too predictable and the story line and script were kinda lame. We also checked out “Fatman” starring Mel Gibson who played a rogue Santa. This film though mildly enjoyable was primarily selected due to the fact that it was filmed in Ottawa and the surrounding towns, and it was nice to see areas around our home that we could relate to. 

As I have quickly touched on previous viewings, let us take a look at this film. For this week, we have selected Dr. Sleep. This a film adaptation of a Stephen King novel of the same name.  Film adaptations of King’s novels are traditionally a crap shoot. It can either be brilliant or huge piece of fecal matter. For example, Carrie, Misery, Dolores Clairborne, The Stand were all excellent in my opinion, then you take Maximum Overdrive, The Cell, Silver Bullet and Lawnmower Man, these films were time vampires…meaning I will never get the time I wasted watching them back. 

On the other hand, Doctor Sleep was pretty good. It followed the novel to a point, contained an interesting cast, was well directed, scripted and acted, and provided us 2 ½ hours of entertainment. For a quick synopsis of the film, we must first touch on the film and book titled “The Shining” also a film adaptation from Stephen King’s novel. In “The Shining” we are introduced to the Torrance family, who are a little down on their luck. The father is an alcoholic who is trying to recover his career, a timid wife and a child who seems to have special gifts in the psychic realm. They are caretakers of a once luxurious hotel called the “Overlook”. This hotel which is only open seasonally must be taken care of during the winter to ensure it does not get too damaged by the elements on the off season. However, the big secret of the Overlook is that it is haunted by numerous ghosts of past patrons who were either killed, committed suicide or died while being guests. Naturally, as with all Stephen King tales, the ghosts wreak havoc on the people, causing them to slip over the edge. The father’s insanity was encapsulated perfectly by Jack Nicholson when he crashed through the bathroom door with the axe and ad-libbed “Here’s Johnny!” Naturally the son, Dan Torrance survived so that he could be in a sequel book and film.

So now about Doctor Sleep. We find the son, Dan Torrance (Mcgregor) leading a life of drunken debauchery that would make his father’s inebriated adventures pale in comparison. He is having flashbacks to the hotel, remembering Dick Hallorann (Lumbly) who helped him before and just stumbling through life. He wakes up in a small town where he hooks up with Billy Freeman (Curtis) a recovering alcoholic who sees the good in Dan (Mcgregor) and tries to help him. Freeman finds him place to live and a job in the local hospice. Additionally, he brings him to the local chapter of AA so that he can start to clean his body and soul and commence life anew. 

Concurrently, we are introduced to a roving band of miscreants calling themselves the “True Knot”. Bedecked in costumes and clothes of days long ago we discover that they are sort of a modern day Vampire. They don’t drink blood, but inhale a person’s essence, (what they call Steam) to ensure a long and healthy life. Led by Rose the Hat (Ferguson) and Crow Daddy (Mclarnon), they travel the highways and bi-ways of the US looking for children for have the shining. Once they are discovered, they are tortured and subsequently killed so that they can capture the steam (or shine) from these special individuals.

Now back to the main star, Dan (Mcgregor) has now enjoyed a period of sobriety and has made a place for himself in the community when he starts receiving messages from an unknown entity. This entity we later find out to be Abra Stone (Curran) who has a shining like no other, and a power level that can knock Dan’s (Mcgregor) socks off. 

So, not to give out too much more of the plot, Dan (Mcgregor) and Abra (Curran) hook up to battle the nefarious “True Knot” cult. This is pretty much the story without giving out the twists and turns of the plot. 

So, what did we like about the film? First it was a well thought out script and it was acted out nicely. The characters were strong and likeable, hell, even the “True Knot” characters had some likeability to them. The chemistry between all of them was evident and it ensured that there was a smooth delivery of the story. While on the subject of the story, it was evenly paced and did not have any down turns or periods of boredom. That is mark of a good film, especially when it spans over 2 ½ hours. CGI was actually at a minimum (thank god) as were the special effects. For example, in the book, Rose the Hat would unhinge her jaw and one giant tooth would come out when she fed on the steam. However, in the film, she would just breath in and her eyes would glow. I think if they would have followed the direction in the book, it would have come across pretty cheesy and take away the dramatic effect that was present in the director’s version. I also liked the flashback’s from “The Shining”. The director/producer did manage to find some actors that resembled the original cast of “The Shining” and also recreate some of the sets. Sure this was special effects etc, but nothing that was over the top, and also in my honest opinion – integral to the story. 

What didn’t I like about the film…. actually there was really nothing that stood out as bad. They could have enhanced the “Doctor Sleep” portion a tad more, but that would have made the film even longer than it already was. Also, as for the “True Knot” characters I found the “Grampa Flick” (Carel Struycken) character to be a bit comical, but it did have an important role to demonstrate what would happen to them all if they were not fed the “Steam” that they constantly craved. Other than that, I can’t really think of anything else that bothered me when watching the film.

Now, that the storyline has been discussed, let us take a deeper look at the actor and characters in the film: 

Ewan Mcgregor as Dan Torrance: I pretty much liked Mcgregor in most of his films and “Doctor Sleep” was no exception. To me, he was a believable character that resembled what I had created in my minds eye when I read the book. He can be dewy eyed and innocent, or hard with equal ease. He is a talented actor who I believe portrayed Dan Torrance well. His chemistry with the other characters was believable and did not seem forced. Nor did his actions as a burn out drunk. All facets of his role were well played and added to the story and the enjoyment of the audience. Another fine performance by Mcgregor. 

Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat: I really liked this character, while she did not really look like what I pictured in the book, (having a far younger resemblance than what I thought), she still played the character well. As the “True Knot” in charge, she had a commanding presence that let you believe that she had full authority of the group while also portraying a tired visage of wisdom and hunger if you will. Her chemistry with her sidekick Crow Daddy (McClarnon) was well played as well as the final scenes when she confronts Dan (Mcgregor) and Abra (Curran). Looking at her IMDB resume, she has been in quite a few good shows and movies i.e. The White Queen, Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation and Ghost Protocol and Life. One film that I see her coming up in later this year is Dune, which I really hope her role is as good as “Rose the Hat” and lives up to the Dune legend. If she does well in the next film (Dune) I really think her career could be on a faster trajectory and lead to even more complex and varied roles for her. I am looking forward to seeing how her career moves in the next year or so. Overall, a really good performance by Ferguson. 

Kyliegh Curran as Abra Stone: This was the first time I had watched a film or show with Curran in it, and having said that, I was mildly impressed. I found her to be a talented young actress and am looking forward to see her in future productions. Curran’s chemistry with her other stars was evident at all times, especially with Mcgregor. While her character was the lynch pin in the destruction of the “True Knot” it did not overpower the other star’s contribution to the end battle. I have no doubt that audiences will see her in future productions and that her talent will continue to grow and mature as she gets older.

Cliff Curtis as Billy Freeman: Curtis is the ultimate co-star. He can play a terrorist, a dramatic role, or comedic doofus with equal ease. His portrayal of Billy Freeman was integral to the development of Mcgregor’s Torrance. Seeing the good in Torrance (Mcgregor), he gives him his first chance on getting clean and living a new and worthwhile life. Not only does he believe in Torrance (Mcgregor) he stakes his life on it. All of this was done in a believable fashion that did not make you shake your head in wonder. I think the first time I had seen Curtis in a film was Deep Rising in the late 90’s and I liked him that movie. After that he has been in several other films that I have enjoyed i.e. Six Days Seven Nights, Virus, Three Kings, Training Day, and Fear the Walking Dead but to name a few. In each case he has delivered, just as he has in Doctor Sleep. This was another fine example of Curtis’s talent in an already accomplished resume of film and television. 

Zahn McClarnon as Crow Daddy: McClarnon has surprised me in recent years. Even though he has been around in the film and television industry since the late 80’s he has not really come to my attention until the last few years. That is when we started watching Longmire (excellent series) and Queen of the South (also an excellent series). It was his work in these two television shows that brought him to our attention. He is an accomplished and talented supporting actor who portrays the stoic, honorable man with skill. His chemistry with his co-stars was evident and as mentioned previously, especially strong with Ferguson. As with his co-stars in Doctor Sleep, this was another fine performance by an accomplished actor.

Now for the big question, were we entertained? Yes, we definitely were. As I had previously mentioned, this was not the Stephen King masterpiece film adaptation like Misery and Dolores Clairborn, but it was a very solid film that provided us with an escape for a few hours. Overall a well presented film that can be enjoyed if you have read the book or not. I would recommend this film if you are a fan of the supernatural genre, and/or a fan of Stephen King and Ewan Mcgregor. Even if the supernatural is not really your cup of tea, I think the dramatic story line and solid acting will still make this film an enjoyable experience for all. 

Our Rating: 6.5/10

If you are interested in other films starring the principle cast members, please consider the following recommendations:

Ewan Mcgregor             Trainspotting, Black Hawk Down, Star Wars ep 1 – 3, The Island, Angels and Demons, The Men who stare at Goats

Rebecca Ferguson         Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation, Life, The White Queen

Cliff Curtis                     Whale Rider, Fear the Walking Dead, The Meg, Live Free or Die Hard, Training Day

Zahn McClarnon            Longmire, Queen of the South

Till next Time!

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