Although I read voraciously and enjoy challenging literature, I find Dickens heavy going generally. I've noticed that, among enthusiastic readers like me, Dickens is like Marmite: you either love it or loath it. I often find his characters too overblown for credibility, sometimes tending (in my view) towards grotesque (though entertaining) caricatures. That said, they are often memorable - and his plots are fascinating.
I studied Great Expectations at school, but I didn't particularly like it. Perhaps that is why I felt free to enjoy this adaptation for what it is: Beautiful and interesting to look at, evocative, and believable (something I have a problem with in the writing).
I don't agree with the negative review(s) of Ray Winstone as Magwitch: Of course he was himself as usual, which itself brings a particular humanity to his roles, but I understood his Magwitch as a fully-rounded comprehensible person. I loved Gillian Anderson as Miss Haversham. I really admire her as an actor generally and, again, felt that she gave a life and a humanity to the character not present, for me, in the book. Jaggers (David Suchet) became authentic for me, as did his relationship with Molly, and I really liked this version of Wemmick (Paul Ritter). I also disagree with criticisms of the adult Estella (Vanessa Kirby) - she, too, was more vivid for me than before - and I felt she was well cast for this version (the character should not, I feel, be constrained by imagining that she would be a conventionally "beautiful" aristocratic type - that was not the character's true background; and she's MEANT to be cold and unsympathetic until near the end, isn't she?). I felt that the whole script worked very well generally, in its own right. I liked that things were added to the book as well as missed from it: The total number of characters in the original story was pared down and I don't think that's a bad thing - what we got instead was greater depth in those remaining - an imaginative but considered take on the story.
I did feel, however, that Douglas Booth was miscast as Pip - mainly because he DOES look like a boringly upper class beauty - probably because that IS his background (where have all these public school kids on the BBC come from in the last 2 years??? I can't imagine). That said, his performance grew on me, probably because he's not a bad actor: Although he didn't look right and the posh accent was a tad too natural for the role, I found myself going along with him anyway.
Two performances I particularly liked (which I don't think other reviewers have mentioned) were those of Oscar Kennedy, as young Pip, and Shaun Dooley, as a very lovable Joe Gargery. Child actors can be awful but Kennedy was great - I could quite see why his young Pip might have inspired Ray Winstone's Magwitch.
All in all, if you're looking for a painstakingly detailed recreation of Dickens' very long book, this probably won't hit the spot - It's not like the BBC's recent adaptation of Bleak House in that sense, which I also loved. It is more comparable with their version of Oliver Twist (with Timothy Spall as Fagin, Tom Hardy as Bill Sykes and Sophie Okonedo as Nancy), which I also enjoyed as a vivid piece of story-telling in its own right.
I advise you not to miss this if you haven't seen it, and to watch it with an open mind.