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Film Review: “The Shining” (1980)


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Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson

Based on Stephen King novel: “The Shining”

Produced by: Robert Fryer, Jan Harlan, Mary Lea Johnson, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Richards

Music by: Wendy Carlos, Rachel Elkind

Cinematography: John Alcott

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd. Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone, Joe Turkel, Anne Jackson, Tony Burton, Burnell Tucker

Jack Torrance is a writer who gets an excellent opportunity to finish his work when he obtains a job as a caretaker in an enormous luxury hotel which shut down during the Winter. Jack moves in to the hotel with his wife Wendy and 5 year old son, Danny, for several months, until the winter ends. But soon after, Jack starts losing control of his mind and his sanity. He allows this big and mysterious place to control him; causing him to do the harshest thing he has ever done in his life…

The Shining probably is one of the most difficult movies ever to review. At least, for me… If you have seen Kubrick’s film and read most of Stephen King`s book, then you will understand why I say this. In order to begin reviewing Kubrick`s The Shining, which is based on the novel of genius writer, and the master of Horror stories, Stephen King, I have to get into the head of both of these talented people, which I found virtually impossible. Especially since both Kubrick and King love to study human nature,  its psychology, and then  see how far they can go- in one direction or another- once the chance is given. But in my opinion, it does not matter how well we know Kubrick’s style or King`s stories, it is still impossible to give a review of The Shining that matches its perfection.

Jack Torrance, played by the magnificent Jack Nicholson, is a former school teacher who has a strong desire to become a writer, and a good one… but I doubt that he can become as good as Stephen King. Living in a big city his problem with alcohol addiction, and a little son Danny (Danny Lloyd), who has an imaginary friend, named Tony, does not allow Jack to concentrate on his writing. For these reasons he accepts an offer to be caretaker of a huge hotel, despite the horrific event that occurred there in 1970 – the previous caretaker of the hotel killed his wife and two twin daughters with an axe and then killed himself. But none of this compares to what happens to Jack and his family as soon as they move in. The hotel, itself, holds a mysterious secret which it shares only with those who will follow and do whatever it wishes. In this case, the prospective person is a troubled writer, who takes his wife and son on a journey from which there is no return, and who will get totally lost in the scary reality that the hotel keeps carefully hidden from the outside world. If you keep in mind that the story is based on Stephen King‘s best selling novel The Shining – then we all must expect nothing but the limitless imagination of Stephen King, Kubrick’s ability to feel the story and adapt it onto the big screen the way he pictures it, and Jack Nicholson who can transform himself into any insane character he wishes – then you know that The Shining is as scary as hell itself.

Stanley Kubrick does not need a special introduction. His films are used as a bible for new filmmakers, or by those who want to accomplish whatever Kubrick has achieved. These things aside, not everyone is Kubrick. The Shining is probably the creepiest film ever made by Kubrick, and he and only he, no one else, could have ever brought King’s novel to the big screen. Kubrick uses a steady-camera-technology in the film and lets us experience all the madness that occurs in The Shining. Moreover, only in Kubrick’s film can the main characters not only be the actors, but everything you see: a chair, kitchen stuff, a wall, an empty giant hall, and even the silence… Everything in Kubrick’s film has a purpose and this is what it makes it so classic and fantastic. The Shining has already made it’s mark on history. Even though Kubrick is no longer with us, his legacy and work stays with us long after his passing.

Performance. Oh well, Jack Nicholson, as Jack, shines here with his multiple facial expressions which will leave the viewer highly satisfied. Nicholson totally disappears into King’s hero, and he makes it look like it comes naturally. Nicholson not just nailed every scene, but he truly looks terrific. His legendary performance makes us believe that he is already Jack and has just waited for this moment to come out, to become stunningly real.  Danny Lloyd, who played Nicholson’s son, is simply terrific. And Shelley Duvall with her emotionally breakdown performance, was absolutely speechless. And the entire cast of the film does tremendous job who all the way from the beginning till the end, supports every line, making this film so intriguingly interesting, and emotionally gripping – enough to watch at least a hundred times.

In conclusion, The Shining is one of those films we have to re-watch whenever we get the chance. It truly is a piece of art and deserves everyones attention. The harmony between Kubrick-King’s story and Nicholson is so remarkable that sometimes you find yourself thinking that these three unrelated people are made for each other; to work together to make The Shining, and to leave us, the audience, alone to watch their masterpiece with eyes wide open.

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About Ulkar Alakbarova (1029 Articles)
My name is Ulkar Alakbarova. A wonderful name, is it not? I come from the exotic land of Azerbaijan but now I live in the hub of Hollywood North – Toronto, Canada. How lucky I am to be able to enjoy and indulge in my favourite avocation of watching movies. Movies of every genre are screened here in Toronto. There are black and white classics, avant garde, independently produced, and of course, newly released movies for all to enjoy. Let me share this treasure of entertainment with you. Read my thoughts and opinions then let me know if you agree.

5 Comments on Film Review: “The Shining” (1980)

  1. True, re-watching this is the one thing that I remind myself of, whenever I get a chance 🙂

  2. Jack Nicholson is great in this classic piece of horror cinema from the late, great Mr. Kubrick! Spot-on review 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment. I actually don`t understand how come he did not get a recognition for his role? I mean, it was Nicholson’s most iconic role, and he was not even recognized by AMPAS!

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