I never really understood Michael Apted. For most of my life his name would incongruously pop up under the “directed by” credit in the strangest places. In fact it was seeing the words “A film by Michael Apted” on the trailer for this particular fantasy yarn that made me realize I really knew nothing about the man, but it did seem weird he’d made it. Didn’t he make social documentaries?
I came to see that it wasn’t just that Apted made all kinds of films, but that he was like the lead character in his 2006 film “Amazing Grace,” William Wilberforce. Like him, he championed those who so desperately needed a voice, whether that was the British working class in his “Up” series, the blind in his thriller “Blink,” the traumatized in his 1994 film “Nell,” the homeless in the overblown thriller “Extreme Measures,” the animal kingdom in “Gorillas in the Mist,” and Native Americans in both “Thunderheart” and “Incident at Oglala,” and all the while he remained a true friend to everyone. He finished Curtis Hanson’s last movie when he took ill, he stepped in to film the thriller “Unlocked” when its director walked away, and managed to stay in touch with every subject in his “Up” series across 56 years of their lives.
Apted made being a good human into great cinema. I can only hope more people like him are on their way.