I had tempted fate, and fate had accepted.
Watching the Greene-scripted Twenty One Days, Ralph Feinnes, as Bendrix, whispers to Julianne Moore as Sarah “I didn’t write that”. And ironically, while Neil Jordan has retained a lot of Greene’s dialogue and effected a beautiful recreation of Greene’s war-torn always-raining London, this certainly isn’t what he wrote.
The performances, from the two leads, but especially from Stephen Rea as the cuckolded husband, are superb, and the cinematography (Roger Pratt) is beautiful. The pivotal scene is so incredible that on first watching I immediately rewound and played it again (it’s used twice in the film, too). So what a shame, then, that Jordan’s adaptation simply guts the plot. By removing one minor character, he removes the central dilemma of the book (“God is in the details”). The “other party” is just no longer any contest for Bendrix, and Jordan, recognising this, changes the ending of the film too.
It’s stilll a hugely better watch than the 1955 version (well, it hasn’t got Van Johnson in it). It’s fine so far as it goes as a “doomed love” story, and the first half is great. But it’s not Greene’s story and it really just tails off at the end.