★ ★ ★ ☆
For those of us who've seen Let the Right One In, the American remake had a tough act to follow. I'll spare the suspense: Let Me In was not as good as the original. While it did some things better, it did many things worse. Despite the inconsistency, it is definetly worth the watch. Even if you've seen the original, it still manages to hold your attention. Much of this can be attributed to a number of iconic scenes, but credit is definetly due to the technical crew members for putting together one of the most technically sound movies you'll see this year. If you take a keen interest in cinematography and sound editing, you won't want to miss this. It is a tour de force on both fronts. Some phenomenal supporting roles certainly helped. However, at least one major casting mistake, and uneven dialogue marred the production value. It was good, when it could easily have been great.
The biggest issue with the film was the role of Abby. On a superficial level, Chloe Moretz did not fit the part at all. Abby ought to have been an icy, ephemeral character (as in the original). Instead, she is blonde, has a regular skin tone, and seems altogether normal. She's even less vampire like than a Twilight character. Her action sequences were also oddly clunky. Not all of the roles deficiencies can be blamed on a casting error. Her dialogue was weak--disproportionately to the relatively well written screenplay. I'm not quite sure what Matt Reeves was thinking. I suppose it can be tough to script such a feral character, but either way it was lackluster.
Owen was also a role that left something to be desired when compared to the original. Though he wasn't exactly a missfit in the role, Kodi Smit-McPhee couldn't quite live up to the original. The original role (Oskar) was among the best portrayals of a victim of bullying. The victim of bullying can also be among the most frightening avengers when given the chance. Alienation, and powerlessness can turn the most innocent child into a merciless transgressor. Owen was a reasonable facimile of this, but not on the level of Oskar.
While the lead roles were unsatisfying, a pair of supporting actors put in excellent roles. Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas are two of the best character actors around. While their roles didn't require much extension, they brought a level of gravitas to the film that was lacking from the leads.
Matt Reeves deserves credit for having made the film interesting, even for those who've seen the original. Dialogue is obviously not his strong suit, but he was able to play on the expectations of those who've seen the original. He often let the audience hang in the balance, even though they knew what to expect. I suspect the long lead up to the iconic pool scene was devised specifically with those who've seen the original in mind. It's tough to build suspence for people who know what's coming. He also managed to open the film in an interesting way, and introduce some interesting Americanizations. The Ronald Reagan speech leitmotif was interesting, though not quite exploited to full effect.
The real stars of Let Me In were not the actors, or the director. The photography and sound units stole the show. Greig Fraser did a masterful job of matching the medium to the motif. The camera lens had the feel of a window onto the cold winter mise en scene. Long cuts at times made it feel as though the camera were frozen into place. The camera constantly blurred in and out of focus, like a window frosting over, and defrosting. I've yet to see a cinematographer so effectively capture frigidity through the use of lenses. Unbearable heat has been captured many a time, but this was actually quite novel. The sound crew was able to create a stark contrast through periods of quite, and ratcheting music. The Reagan leitmotifs were especially well done, cutting into the silence with prophetic ruminations about good and evil. I can't think of a better usage of sampling in film off the top of my head.
Though imperfect, Let Me In is a must see, especially if you've seen one too many of the lame vampire movies that have been flooding theatres. Part edge of your seat thriller, part social commentary, it is among the most exciting wide releases of the year.