Film Review – THE DUKE (2020)

THE DUKE (2020, UK, 96m, 12) ****
Biography, Comedy
dist. Pathe UK (UK), Sony Pictures Classics (USA); pr co. Pathe UK / Ingenious Media / Screen Yorkshire / Neon Films; d. Roger Michell; w. Richard Bean, Clive Coleman; pr. Nicky Bentham; ph. Mike Eley (Colour | 2.39:1); m. George Fenton; ed. Kristina Hetherington; pd. Kristian Milsted; ad. Adam Tomlinson.
cast: Jim Broadbent (Kempton Bunton), Helen Mirren (Dorothy Bunton), Fionn Whitehead (Jackie Bunton), Matthew Goode (Jeremy Hutchinson QC), Aimée Kelly (Irene Boslover), Craig Conway (Mr Walker), Simon Hubbard (PC Myton), Jack Bandeira (Kenny Bunton), Heather Craney (Debbie – Clerk of the Court), Cliff Burnett (Wilf), Ashley Kumar (Javid Akram), Charlie Richmond (PO Official 1), James Wilby (Judge Aarvold), John Heffernan (Neddie Cussen), Michael Mather (Eddie), Anna Maxwell Martin (Mrs Gowling), Michael Hodgson (Barry Spence), Richard McCabe (Rab Butler), Andrew Havill (Sir Philip Hendy), Val McLane (Freda).
Delightfully performed story of Kempton Bunton (Broadbent), a 60-year-old taxi driver, who in 1961 stole Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. He sent ransom notes saying that he would return the painting on the condition that the government invested more in care for the elderly. Broadbent is superb as the likeable and funny campaigner whilst Mirren is equally impressive as his long-suffering wife. A subplot involving the death of their teenage daughter a few years earlier adds a level of pathos and gives the characterisations some depth. The court scenes in the film’s final act give Broadbent his moment in the spotlight and are hilarious. 1960s Newcastle is splendidly captured in all its grit and grime by cinematographer Eley and production designer Milsted. This comedy-drama is a fitting final film for director Michell.

Film Review – DOWNTON ABBEY (2019)

Image result for downton abbey 2019DOWNTON ABBEY (UK, 2019) ***
      Distributor: Universal Pictures International (UPI) (UK), Focus Features (USA); Production Company: Carnival Film & Television / Focus Features / Perfect World Pictures; Release Date: 13 September 2019 (UK), 20 September 2019 (USA); Filming Dates: began 10 September 2018; Running Time: 122m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: Digital (Digital Cinema Package DCP); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: PG – mild threat, language.
      Director: Michael Engler; Writer: Julian Fellowes (based on characters created by Julian Fellowes); Executive Producer: Nigel Marchant, Brian Percival; Producer: Julian Fellowes, Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge; Director of Photography: Ben Smithard; Music Composer: John Lunn; Film Editor: Mark Day; Casting Director: Jill Trevellick; Production Designer: Donal Woods; Art Director: Mark Kebby; Set Decorator: Gina Cromwell; Costumes: Anna Robbins; Make-up: Elaine Browne; Sound: David Lascelles.
      Cast: Matthew Goode (Henry Talbot), Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Talbot), Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates), Maggie Smith (Violet Crawley), Tuppence Middleton (Lucy Smith), Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley), Imelda Staunton (Maud Bagshaw), Stephen Campbell Moore (Captain Chetwode), Geraldine James (Queen Mary), Allen Leech (Tom Branson), Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith), Sophie McShera (Daisy Mason), Mark Addy (Mr. Bakewell), Kate Phillips (Princess Mary), Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham), Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes), Raquel Cassidy (Miss Baxter), Susan Lynch (Miss Lawton), Robert James-Collier (Thomas Barrow), Jim Carter (Mr. Carson), Penelope Wilton (Isobel Merton), Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates), Max Brown (Richard Ellis), Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore), David Haig (Mr Wilson), Kevin Doyle (Mr. Molesley), Perry Fitzpatrick (Chris Webster), Harry Hadden-Paton (Bertie Hexham), Simon Jones (King George V), Michael Fox (Andy Parker), Philippe Spall (Monsieur Courbet), James Cartwright (Tony Sellick), Douglas Reith (Lord Merton).
      Synopsis: An aristocratic family and their staff have to prepare for an unexpected visit from the King and Queen.
      Comment: Fans of the TV series, which ran for six seasons, will no doubt love this big-screen adaptation. Casual viewers may get lost in the abundance of characters, well played by the ensemble cast, and their carry over backstories. The story itself is slight, based around the tensions caused by the Royal visit to the household. There are nods at the Irish hatred toward the crown and the underground gay movement, but these are not fully explored. Instead, the writer and director focus on the inter-relationships between the main characters. Sumptuously designed, it’s all very civilised and often witty, but the lack of substance means this will only really have any lasting legacy with its sizeable fan base.