Portraying one of the most mesmerising actors in Hollywood history is a tall order for an actor, yet Dane DeHaan pulls it off with charisma to spare in this biopic about James Dean.

Photographer-turned-director Anton Corbijn’s Life captures Dean on the cusp of fame, just before the 1955 premiere of East of Eden, the movie that made him a star, and it chronicles the legendary photo essay he shot with struggling Life magazine photographer Dennis Stock, played with fidgety angst by an excellent Robert Pattinson.

As the action flits between Los Angeles, New York and rural Indiana, famous figures of the time pop up on the margins, including Natalie Wood, Pier Angeli, Eartha Kitt and ruthless movie mogul Jack Warner, given menace worthy of a Mafioso by Ben Kingsley. But the film is essentially a two-hander exploring the upsides and downsides of ambition and fame, and thanks to DeHaan and Pattinson, a very compelling one.

Certificate 15. Runtime 109 mins. Director Anton Corbijn

Life shows on Film4 at 10.50pm on Tuesday 25 April.