Review: 'Six Minutes To Midnight' (2020) Dir. Andy Goddard
Known for stand-up comedy, Eddie Izzard takes on serious duties of creating an original story, co-writing and acting in this war-time thriller based on true events Bexhill-on-Sea...
England, 1939. A military intelligence operative posing as a lecturer goes missing from the Augusta-Victoria College, a finishing school for daughters of the Nazi elite in the quiet coastal town of Bexhill-on-Sea.
Thomas Miller (Izzard) is the new replacement, with orders to find out what happened to the missing operative and also keep an eye on the school itself, with news that German forces are looking to push into Europe.
With the headmistress Rocholl (Dench) and local police Captain Drey (D'Arcy) pushing Miller to do all he can to maintain his cover, it becomes clear German forces are working against him to prevent the investigation progressing at all...
A blend of spy-thriller and war-time drama, 'Six Minutes To Midnight' looks at the investigation of Anglo-German relations with Adolph Hitler rising to prominence in Germany and touching the fringes of Poland as tensions rise. It's down to British spy Eddie Izzard to infiltrate a Nazi youth boarding school on the south coast posing as an English teacher and discover any evidence of German forces operating untoward that may spark conflict. It's interesting to see a drama set at the turning point of World War 2, and touching on a time we often forget when Anglo-German relationships were strong, so much so having the Union Jack and Swastika sewn on the finishing school badges together.
Izzard, originally from Bexhill-on-Sea where this is based, co-writes a steady paced story with fellow actor Celyn Jones and director Andy Goddard. Izzard has evolved as a star and performer, here as British spy Thomas Miller working undercover in the Augusta-Victoria College where suspected traitors are operating under the Government's very noses. Izzard dispenses with any attempt at comedy and instead plays Miller in a very charming, likeable and down-to-Earth way. There is gentle humour but a mature warmth to Miller where you are eager for him to succeed in his mission and find yourself trying to piece together the clues laid out as to what the twists and turns may be.
Izzard does a fine job in bringing an intriguing slice of wartime history to the screen, and also giving us a likable, conflicted hero in her portrayal as Miller.
With some stellar support from screen veteran Dame Judi Dench as the mysterious headmistresses who may / may not be one of said traitors, ever dependable Jim Broadbent as a jolly British bus driver who keeps the stiff-upper lip at all times, and young Carla Juri as teacher Ilse Keller who may / may not be another said traitor, it's a deceptive web of great performances for Izzard to root through.
British Director Goddard, known for his work on acclaimed shows such as Law & Order: UK, The Level and Downton Abbey, understands the domestic appeal of both period history and gritty drama. Goddard treats us to everything we could expect from a British war-time drama that could slot in perfectly for a Sunday night's viewing in the same vein as Red Joan or The Imitation Game. There is something so appealing in these war-time adventures, full of gentle mystery and espionage but also the teasing threats and notion of what is to come, all lead by a top roster of British talent. And a fair 90min run-time doesn't let this get too flabby around the edges, and keeps going to maintain the urgency and tension.
Shot on home soil across the UK, we are spoilt for locations be them cloudy coastal beaches, green waving countryside or the ancient castles, schools and towns that evoke real character. The British always excel in using our homegrown history and culture for practical effect and some glorious photography, crafted by Chris Seager.
While maybe not for everyone due to the gentle pace, lack of action and restrained development of characters, this doesn't prove a detraction from the film itself if you come into this knowing what to expect. And the climax is rewarding enough with some beautiful shots that wrap up the story laid out in the very first opening frames for full dramatic effect, coupled with a rousing score by Marc Streitenfeld and Izzard and Dench's performances.
Solid espionage twists and well shot set pieces tick all the boxes for this entertaining, well performed and by-the-book British war-time thriller that offers a story not known by many.
'Six Minutes To Midnight' is a co-production between Lionsgate, Mad as Birds and West Madison Entertainment