Posts Tagged ‘Hugh Bonneville’

An Evolving World

Downton Abbey: A New Era

Director: Simon Curtis

Cast: Maggie Smith, Hugh Dancy, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Dominic West, Tuppence Middleton, Elizabeth McGovern, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton, Allen Leech, Nathalie Baye, Laura Haddock, Joanne Froggatt, Laura Carmichael, Sophie McShera, Robert James-Collier, Samantha Bond, Phyllis Logan, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michael Fox, Harry Hadden-Paton, Kevin Doyle, Charlie Watson, Jonathan Zaccai, Douglas Reith

Running Time: 2 hours and 5 minutes

Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Capitalizing on the success of the 2019 film Downton Abbey, a star studded sequel returns in its all glittering allure and this time Lady Violet Crawley wonderfully played with her usual coy dexterity by Oscar winner Maggie Smith (California Suite, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) reveals to her large and extended family at Downton that she has a villa in the South of France that was mysteriously left to her by a long last lover.

As Lady Crawley departs the gorgeously decorated drawing room she leaves with a final comment: “I will say good night and leave you all to discuss my mysterious past.”

Oscar winning screenwriter of the acclaimed Robert Altman 2001 film Gosford Park, Julian Fellowes once again returns to fine form with a familiar cast and adds a touch of glamour as half the cast set off for the French Riviera to meet the previous owners a French mother and son, wonderfully played by Nathalie Baye (Catch Me if You Can) and Jonathan Zaccai.

As Lady Mary, beautifully played once again with a crisp diction by Michelle Dockery, holds the fort at Downton Abbey as some fast and fashionable film people arrive to use the lavish estate as a location for what they would soon learn to be one of their last silent films.

The film crew is headed up by the dashing director Jack Barber wonderfully played by Hugh Dancy (Hysteria, Late Night) accompanied with flamboyance by the film’s stars Myrna Dagleish played by Laura Haddock and the male lead Guy Dexter superbly played with nuance by Dominic West (Chicago, Colette, Tomb Raider) as he reveals that he has hidden desires..

Fellowes cleverly gives all the cast members from the servants to the landed gentry equal screen time and an intriguing backstory, condensing the entire narrative into a poignant yet lavish affair which delicately reflects England and the Mediterranean at the end of the 1920’s, an evolving world which saw cinema become talkies, in which American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald made the French Riviera fashionable in July.

From the beautiful costumes to the witty dialogue, from the elegant subplots to the age old rivalry between the British and the French, Downton Abbey: A New Era is a cinematic treat expertly crafted with an ensemble cast that achieve a formidable pitch with humour and grace.

Definitely made for the fans of the brilliant TV series and the 2019 film, Downton Abbey: A New Era is highly recommended viewing and a perfect cinematic outing, which gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

The Downstairs Revolt

Downton Abbey

Director: Micheal Engler

Cast: Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Tuppence Middleton, Hugh Bonneville, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech, Penelope Wilton, Robert James-Collier, Laura Carmichael, Joanne Froggatt, Kate Phillips, Phyllis Logan, Brendan Coyle, Geraldine James, Jim Carter, Max Brown, Stephen Campbell Moore, Michael Fox, Harry Hadden-Paton, James Cartwright  

Lovers of the hit BBC TV series Downton Abbey can now watch all their favourite characters on the big screen, with the highly anticipated film version called Downton Abbey which has just been released. The story follows the wealthy Crawley family in 1927 when they are asked to entertain royalty. King George V and his wife Queen Mary are coming to visit the Yorkshire area and the royal retinue will spend one evening at Downton Abbey much to the consternation of the fiercely loyal staff of Downton Abbey led by Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes.

Expertly scripted by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), Downton Abbey is a royal treat with sumptuous costumes by Anna Robbins and gorgeous production design by Donal Woods.

The best lines in the film are given to Oscar winner Maggie Smith (California Suite, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) who plays the formidable matriarch Lady Violet Crawley who exchanges numerous barbed comments with a mysterious cousin Maud Bagshaw played by Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake) who has an unnatural attachment to her lady maid Lucy Smith played by Tuppence Middleton (The Current War).

As the Crawley’s entertain the royal couple, there is much intrigue afoot provided by the disgraced butler Barrow played by Robert James-Collier who discovers a secret world to experience his hidden sexuality while the dashing chauffeur turned son-in-law Tom Branson played by Allen Leech (Bohemian Rhapsody) discovers a covert plot to assassinate the king.

Lady Edith played by Laura Carmichael has some exciting news for her husband Bertie Hexham played by Harry Haddon-Paton while the cook’s assistant Daisy Mason played by Sophie McShera (Cinderella) flirts with the hunky plumber Tony Sellick played by James Cartwright much to the consternation of her beau the ambitious footman Andy Parker played by Michael Fox (Dunkirk).

Whilst the upper classes are dining and having balls, there is a downstairs revolt led by Mr Carson played by Jim Carter and Mrs Hughes played by Phyllis Logan who plot to get rid of the royal servants so that they get an opportunity to serve the royal family at an evening banquet held at Downton Abbey with a rather surprising result.

Downton Abbey is ravishingly filmed with a witty script by Fellowes who injects a suitable balance of humour and poignancy into the narrative to make this British period drama both entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable and absolutely thought provoking.

With an existing fan based already created by the hugely popular BBC series, Downton Abbey is a film not to be missed and it’s no wonder it become a Box Office sensation in both America and England on its opening weekend in September 2019. Highly recommended viewing for those that cherish elegant British period films in the vein of The Remains of the Day, Brideshead Revisited and Howard’s End.

Downton Abbey gets a film rating of 9 out of 10 is strictly for fans of the series and beautifully written and acted by a truly noble ensemble cast.

Dividing a Subcontinent

Viceroy’s House

Director: Gurinder Chadha

Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon, Simon Callow, Lily Travers, Manish Dayal, Om Puri, Huma Qureshi, Simon Williams

Bend it Like Beckham Kenyan born, British director Gurinder Chadha’s handsome post-colonial film Viceroy’s House about the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent in August 1947 effortlessly blends documentary footage of the historic event with gorgeous production design and exquisite costumes.

Fresh from his success as playing Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham in the hit BBC series Downton Abbey, Hugh Bonneville turns in a nuanced performance as Lord Louis Mountbatten the last Viceroy of India who has daunting task of giving India its independence after 300 years of British rule.

Lord Louis Mountbatten is accompanied by his affected yet compassionate wife Lady Edwina Mountbatten played by Gillian Anderson (Shadow Dancer, The Last King of Scotland). Lily Travers (Kingsman: Secret Service, Me Before You) plays their daughter Lady Pamela Hicks.

The actual task of dividing the subcontinent into India and Pakistan so brilliantly written about in Salman Rushdie’s seminal post-colonial text Midnight’s Children is taken up by Sir Cyril Radcliffe in Viceroy’s House superbly played by Simon Callow the stalwart supporting actor of all those Merchant Ivory film’s in the 1980’s and 90’s from A Room with a View to Howard’s End and Jefferson in Paris.

Sir Radcliffe after admitting that he has never stepped foot in the Punjab admits that this is “a monstrous responsibility for one man”.

Equally on edge at the thought of a massive subcontinent being divided and suddenly changing power, are the two love interests of Viceroy’s House, the Hindu manservant Jeet wonderfully played by Manish Dayal (The Hundred-Foot Journey) and his Muslim girlfriend Aalia played by Huma Qureshi. Aalia, a bright and intelligent woman has to look after her father Ali Rahim Noor played by the recently deceased veteran Indian actor Om Puri (The Hundred-Foot Journey, Gandhi).

Michael Gambon who was so brilliant in Brideshead Revisited makes a welcome addition to the British cast as General Lionel Hastings who proves to be more deviant and manipulative as the partition date approaches in the summer of 1947.

In terms of setting the right political tone for the Viceroy’s House director Gurinder Chadha relies heavily on actual news and documentary footage of the partition and the massive disruption and refugee crisis it created when the subcontinent broke into India and Pakistan and then again into Bangladesh.

Chadha chooses to use the actual historical Viceroy’s house a sumptuous Empire palace to metaphorically show a subcontinent being torn into two as all the house servants had to literally choose which country to belong to in the space of three weeks: India or Pakistan, as well as callously divide up all the possessions of this magnificent estate.

From a historical perspective, Viceroy’s House is a fascinating film about the after effects of colonialism and the subsequent first heady days of independence in this case not of one country but two divided controversially along religious lines, Hindu and Muslim.

Audiences that enjoyed Midnight’s Children, Heat and Dust, A Passage to India, will certainly enjoy Viceroy’s House although these films are a far cry from the contemporary portrayal of India and Pakistan in such films as Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire and Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Fascinating, tragic and historically relevant, Viceroy’s House with its sumptuous production design and beautiful costumes gets a film rating of 8 out of 10.

 

The Treasures of War

monuments_men

The Monuments Men

Director: George Clooney

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Sam Hazeldine

Actor and director George Clooney and screenwriter Grant Heslov, the team behind The Men Who Stare at Goats and Good Night and Good Luck, team up for an old-fashioned historical war film about a middle aged group of men who set out during the latter years of World War II to recover most of the stolen art works secretly stashed in Nazi hordes across France, Belgium and parts of Germany from 1943 to 1945 as the Germans retreated in defeat as the tide of war turned against them. Whilst The Monuments Men boasts an all star cast including Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin (from The Artist), John Goodman and Matt Damon, the film doesn’t quite match up to the incisive political comment of the Oscar winning Good Night and Good Luck about the approaching threat of McCarthyism on broadcast journalists in the 1950’s.

Instead, Heslov and Clooney focus more on the after effects of war and looting and the utter destruction of entire communities, mainly the European Jews at the hands of the ruthless Nazi’s during the holocaust. There are moments of humour interjected in a mainly historical narrative about how these men travelled across the European Theatres of War from Paris to Brugge to Normandy to track down the hugely valuable and culturally significant pieces of art works stolen by the Nazi’s from Rembrandts to Michelangelo’s famed sculpture Madonna and child stolen from a Belgium monastery.

There is a brief interlude with Damon  as Captain James Granger teaming up with a French Resistance woman in Paris forced to work for the Nazi’s Claire Simone played by Cate Blanchett, with an indistinguishable European accent. There is the witty banter between Richard Campbell and Preston Savitz played respectively by Bill Murray and Bob Balaban and then there is a wonderful cameo by Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) as Donald Jeffries a British Lieutenant who sobers up to join the Monuments Men to save his famed Madonna.

Whilst at times The Monuments Men comes across as sentimental and nostalgic, it’s because its focusing more on the saving of priceless art than on the horrors of conflict and the utter destruction of parts of Europe. This film is in no league to such Oscar winners as Saving Private Ryan or Anthony Minghella’s elegant The English Patient. Instead The Monuments Men shines light on the aspect of war which is often neglected the looting of treasures by the conqueror over the defeated and the crazy scheme of Hitler’s 3rd Reich to build a Fuhrer Art Museum in Berlin, which naturally never materialized. If anyone has been to the great art museums of London, Amsterdam, Paris or New York, many viewers will know that much of the greatest artworks was saved and restored to their original glory.

For art historians, The Monuments Men is a delightful and fascinating film, but for lovers of War films, don’t expect loads of action or bloodshed, just lots of barbed humour and the occasional tragic scene as this band of merry men navigate through dangerous battlefields to reclaim the original treasures of war. Recommended for lovers of nostalgic war films.

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