November 6, 2023 – Author Roald Dahl (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) and movie director Wes Anderson (“Asteroid City”) combine their unique views of the world for a beautiful short film, “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.” This is part of a collection of Dahl-based short movies on Netflix.
Anderson's unique visual and narrative approach seems very well suited to this odd story about two men who could see through objects. The entire movie looks like a play, with water color backdrops, and characters breaking the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience. It sounds like a play, too, with lots of first-person narrative combined with explanatory off-screen narrative.
The main character, Henry Sugar (played by Benedict Cumberbatch of “The Courier”) is a wealthy playboy who likes to gamble, frittering away his time and health on parties, alcohol and casinos. One day, he happens across an obscure book, written by Doctor Chatterjee (Played by Dev Patel of “The Green Knight”) about a circus performer, Imdad Khan (played by Ben Kingsley of “Hugo”) who could ride a bike and do all sorts of other, seemingly impossible, things while blindfolded with heavy bandages over his eyes.
The book tells how Khan was able to see through any blindfold after years of rigorous mental training. Sugar, who loves to gamble, sees this method as a way he can cheat at cards, so he begins training, and finds he is even better than Khan in the rigorous mental training. Eventually, he is able to see through the back of a playing card and read the card face on the other side in only five seconds. That is enough for him to have a decided edge in the casino card game of blackjack.
Sugar goes to a casino and wins a large sum of money, but he soon loses interest in the money he so quickly and easily won. What he needs is something more challenging and rewarding.
Sugar embarks on a wonderful adventure, traveling the world, using his abilities for the benefit of others, not for himself. He started out as an empty man, but his life later becomes very full. If you are looking for a positive story, it doesn't get any better than this. This is the kind of movie we need right now, in world where destructive selfishness and xenophobia are running rampant. This movie rates an A.
Two years ago, Netflix bought the Roald Dahl Story Company for $686 million. Anderson signed on with Netflix to turn several Dahl short stories into short movies, including “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.” Others in this Netflix series include, “The Swan,” “The Rat Catcher” and “Poison.” Each of these three films are 17 minutes long, while “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” is 37 minutes long.
In all of these movies, actor Ralph Fiennes plays the part of Roald Dahl. Ben Kingsley, Dev Patel and Benedict Cumberbatch also appear in “Poison,” while Rupert Friend (“Asteroid City”) appears in both “The Rat Catcher” and “The Swan.”
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