Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes (Dead Presidents, Menace II Society), From Hell enfolds the account of Jack the Ripper in 19th Century England in a realistic way based on the book of the same name. A stellar cast, excellent settings and historic significance of the plot elevate this two hour and 17 minute thriller to level somewhat higher than average thrillers/dramas.
Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissorhands) stars as Inspector Frederick George Abberline heads the investigation of the Ripper crimes. Robbie Coltrane has a great role as (World is Not Enough, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) Sergeant Peter Godley, an admirable law officer who looks after “Fred.” Peter admires his crime solving techniques, but tolerates the state Fred puts himself in to begin these techniques.
Fred wisely balances his relationships with other to reach his objective of catching Jack the Ripper. He confides with Peter in a business-like friendship and Peter helps keep him on course during the investigation. His brooding relationship with a prostitute named Mary Kelly, played well by the lovely Heather Graham (Bowfinger, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me), begins with her useful information involving the disappearance and subsequent murders of her fellow “entrepreneurs.” His deeper involvement with Mary coincides with his deeper involvement in the investigation. He takes Mary to local museums and gets useful information from her about the “Ripper murders.”
Mary is wisely cautious at first to give Fred this information, as her involvement with Fred predictably brings her and her “co-workers” closer to danger. Near the end, many characters reach “beyond the point of no return” as one surprising revelation and the consequent fallout of the investigation should satisfy most audiences.
Ian Holm (Fifth Element, Sweet Hereafter) also stars as Sir William Gull and Jason Flemyng (Lock, Stock, and Two Barrels). Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell wrote the comic series the film is based on and screenwriters Terry Hayes (Payback, Road Warrior) and Rafael Yglesias (Fearless, Death and the Maiden) produce a building plot that reveals intricate details of these historical events and interesting elements of royal implications and secret societies. Though the plot was surprisingly predictable, the writers can be commended for the research and detail that gives the film high credibility.
The Hughes brothers use montages of interlacing images and to get some good scares and thrills, but the realism of the setting, the costumes, and performances from the stellar cast really give the film its high effectiveness. They use psychological elements and plausible situations to build the tension and impact.
The music score by composer Trevor Jones (Last of the Mohicans, Dark City) was great, but had a few noticeable echoes of Vlamir Kirar’s brilliant musical score of the 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula directed by Frances Ford Coppola. Marilyn Manson also contributed a song which plays during the ending credits.
Recommended (*** out of four stars) and rated R for crime violence, gore, nudity and language. The plot has strong content, both graphic and sexual and several troubling scenes including men demeaning women and accosting their breasts. The Hughes brothers also acted as executive producers on this solid film. A special thanks credit was given to Nigel Hawthorne (Madness of King George). If you find the subject of Jack the Ripper particularly interesting, you might want to research facts about the case before seeing this film.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler