The actors and the cinematographer all get 5's on this beautifully made film, but whoever was responsible for mangling Dickens' ending gets a big fat 1. I am afraid the whole film can only achieve a three.
Alec Guinness! It is amazing to hear Obi Wan Kenobi's voice coming from a handsome young man -- in pre-victorian london no less. He plays a deferential foil to John Mills' Pip, and perhaps Guinness' greatest triumph was in a strong character portrayal that avoids submerging Mills' somewhat weak Pip.
Other great portrayals: With Dickens, capturing the essence of character is perhaps the most important goal, and Dickens' minor characters are often the most enjoyable. In light of this, it was delightful to see such a wonderful Mr. Jaggers portrayed by Francis L. Sullivan, so creepy a Miss Havisham played by Martita Hunt, and both portrayals of Estella (the younger by Jean Simmons, the elder by Valerie Hobson).
The use of light. This is a black and white film, and it makes absolutely tremendous use of light and shadow without resorting to artsy camera angles. The opening scenes on marsh and heath are delightfully eerie; the contrasts of indoor and outdoor lighting, most particularly inside Miss Havisham's dark and dreary mansion are all both atmospheric and suggestive of a well thought out use of light as symbolic counterpoint.
There were a few acting disappointments: I thought Pip himself was portrayed rather poorly. Pip had to continually tell us he had become a snob; aside from the voice overs, it would have been hard to tell.
Magwitch (Finlay Currie) certainly looked the part, but I thought him rather bland in the end.
As mentioned, Hollywood really mangled a surprisingly subtle ending by Dickens. If you buy or rent this movie, it has to be to see some great character acting, the young Alec Guinness, or to enjoy the use of light. It is not to experience an accurate retelling of Dickens' Great Expectations.