WHAT I LIKED: 'The Bucket List' is a film about two very different fractious characters with mere months to live who embark on an adventure to fill them. Edward is a super-rich, fun-loving but ultimately lonely soul with no real friends, and Carter is a simpler man with a loving family but who has become bored with the sympathy and mundanity of everyday life, so when the pair set off around the world, they begin to learn things from each other and help each other out.
After a deeply touching sequence in their shared hospital room in which we see them meet and where their differences become clear, Edward flies them both off around the world in a bid to go out with a bang, and for a long time it seems as though the film has dropped all of the touching stuff of the hospital room in pursuit of surface thrills and pointless daredevil pursuits. Carter eventually protests however and discussions about what it really means to be alive and what's really important begin between these two wildly different characters.
It's a powerful set-up watching two differing characters become friends, live out some of their final months together and then learn what's most important from each other (especially when you consider the obvious inevitability of the story), but it's only because of the way it's executed that it works so well to tug at the heartstrings, and in the end there we have Justin Zackham's script and the central performances to thank most of all. Indeed on the one hand Zackham really does build a brilliant relationship between these two characters and successfully send them on proper character journeys thanks to their experiences with each other, and that all amounts to a very touching final act in which they return home and a brilliant sequence of parallel editing between Edward lonely at home finally realising what he's missing and Carter at his home finally realising the love he's got in his life is all deeply moving.
But ultimately it's the fact that every moment penned on paper is delivered so expertly that really means it hits home as Jack Nicholson delivers one of the most understated and yet amusing performances of his career as Edward, whilst Morgan Freeman unsurprisingly delivers the goods as Carter.
In the end then, with two great performances and a good script working in service of what is undoubtedly a very powerful story, what you've got is something deeply moving that will tug at your heartstrings throughout.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: There are some misjudged moments that play awkwardly for laughs - particularly when the two first embark on their journey where it worryingly looks as though the film is going to become all about learning to love the things that Edward does. Equally it's not what you'd call the most cinematic film visually, as some of the shots are hideously executed with rubbish visual effects and at times dialogue does a little too much of the work.
VERDICT: A powerful story that's ultimately about two different people learning what's most important in their last moments of life, 'The Bucket List' may not be the most art-house film, but its exploration of those touching themes and its two central performances make it very a powerful watch indeed.