The Shining

Cinemaster Score: 9.5/10

Overall Review

The Shining is one of the all time greats. Not only because of its unflinching depiction of psychological horror, but because of the strength of its cast and its excellent direction. Kubrick may have been a director with a controlling nature, but his attention to detail and the energy he brings out of his cast is second to none. He elevates a great novel to that of an iconic level, releasing a film full of the most memorable of lines and the most complex of performances. It isn’t a “comfort food” kind of movie – there only to satisfy you for the short term. It is a deeply layered film meant to be analyzed and dissected, full of metaphorical imagery and a unique energy. It has gone down in cinematic history for a reason and will undoubtedly continue to do so – as it paves the way for filmmakers who look to break new ground. It’s difficult to say where this ranks among Kubrick’s filmography, but it is among the greatest he’s ever produced – if only for Nicholson’s performance alone. The Shining is a near masterpiece, full of some of the most historic scenes in movie history, and its legacy will surely continue for quite some time.

The Breakdown

Acting; The Shining is a movie that consists of only a few main actors. Although, those who were involved put on some outstanding performances. Making up the three main cast members are Danny Lloyd, Shelley Duvall, and Jack Nicholson. Danny Lloyd, to start, played Danny Torrence. He gave the character a creepy, almost disturbing, vibe. It is especially impressive when in consideration of Lloyd’s age and future lack of an acting career. Then you have Shelley Duvall. Duvall plays Wendy Torrence as if she were born for the role. She puts in rich emotions that makes the film all the more realistic. Finally though, there is Jack Nicholson. The Shining is one of the best examples of Nicholson’s acting ability in his prime. Whether The Shining is his best work or not, it would be hard not to admit that Nicholson’s portrayal of a man slowly devolving into madness is extraordinary. Extraordinary enough to be later cast as the Joker for 1989’s Batman.

Script; Virtually every aspect of The Shining is amazing, with the script being no exception. Every character has a meaningful or memorable line and not a second is wasted on expository dialogue. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is particularly well written, with one of the most iconic lines in history having been spoken by his character. His “Here’s Johnny!” delivery is simply unforgettable in its place in cinematic history. Yes, while some scenes are written based off the context of the book, the film is so different in its depiction of the Stephen King tale that it feels distinctly unique. The Shining has a perfectly constructed script that never rarely overly explanatory or boring in its execution.

Characters; Jack, Wendy, and Danny Torrance are our main characters as they endure the hauntings of the Overlook Hotel. Each of them are put through the most horrifying of experiences as they slowly descend further into insanity and away from reality. All three are equally as commanding on screen, solidifying themselves as all-time great characters in an all-time great film. Jack goes through a very dramatic change, becoming a being of sinister intent and malevolent volatility. Wendy, already fragile as is, becomes even more so as she wrestles with her environment and those within it. She is broken, and her character exemplifies that perfectly. Danny is – of course – a child, but sees things few others his age do, and his perspective during these scenes is both mesmerizing and horrifying.  There are more who are a part of this film, but these are the most important of them all. They go through extreme character arcs and are all the more iconic because of them.

Direction; A Clockwork Orange. Spartacus. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Dr. Strangelove. Each of those movies are classic greats. They were all directed by Stanley Kubrick, as well. Hence there being little surprise that The Shining – also directed by Kubrick – is as good as it is. Kubrick was inspired by the Stephen King book of the same name to make a movie adaptation. Although, the adaption is not so faithful to the original. Kubrick didn’t even look at King’s script before deciding he’d write his own. Kubrick directs The Shining with clear intent, building the tension slowly and surely over the two hour and twenty-six minute runtime’s entirety. Kubrick also does a good job in finding balance between the supernatural and the down to Earth aspects of horror. He has his usual sugarless intensity in the script, and really, the entire plot. All that from Kubrick and The Shining is a must-see out of pure intrigue.

Story; Perhaps the most interesting thing about The Shining’s plot, is that it doesn’t unfold in a traditional sense one bit. It is less of a story and more of an experience – one where we follow Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic who becomes winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel in an attempt to cure writer’s block. As he settles into Overlook with his family, he begins to uncover the hotel’s dark secrets. As he becomes increasingly maniacal, his family becomes ever fearful. This journey begins slowly, but as it escalates, the tension reaches to an almost stratospheric level. The way Kubrick orchestrates each plot point is masterful, as the story unravels in the most unexpected of ways. It differs from its source material in many aspects, and while that may be off-putting to many (Stephen King included), it is a welcome breath of refreshment to us. Once it starts, the plot doesn’t slow down – filling each scene with dread and riveting psychological horror. The Shining is an experience you don’t want to skip out on.

Enjoyment; The Shining isn’t really “enjoyable” per se. It simply isn’t a movie that might tug at heart strings or inspire something deep in your soul. In all cruel fairness, The Shining doesn’t please many fans of the book, either. On the flip side though, it is the kind of movie that grips tight on its audience’s attention. It’s extremely entertaining to watch due in large part to a combination of two components. One being the importance of many seemingly small scenes that later become main plot developments. The other element is watching Jack Nicholson play the part of a man losing his mind. The Shining is great entertainment for film buffs, too. There are many iconic scenes that make fans feel connected after having watched them. The only unenjoyable point that stands out is the film’s early drag before things get rolling – which is longer than usual as is the whole movie. Other than that, most viewers will be likely satisfied from The Shining.

Personal Review

David: “There are very few movies long as The Shining that I could watch on repeat. Yet, this is definitely one of them. The iconic aura that is present during from opening to closing credits is surreal. The film is a true piece of work in the art of filmography, even decades after release.”

JP: “I think The Shining is a great film, really for Jack Nicholson alone. I feel he is an underrated actor and his performance here is perhaps his very best amongst his films. Of course the rest of the movie is great as well, but I myself would watch it for Nicholson alone, and you should too.”

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