Six Minutes to Midnight – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

April 7, 2021 by Roz Tarszisz
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I often wonder if a story is old fashioned merely because it is set in the past.  British film and television consistently produce fine dramas set in bygone eras and this one is no different.

Director Andy Goddard (A Kind of Murder) sets this historical thriller just before the outbreak of World War II.  The most surprising thing is that it is based on true events. He and lead Eddie Izzard wrote the screenplay, calling on familiar tropes to firmly set the scene.

Desperate calls made from a red telephone box, a brass band playing on the local pier, and a school principal with perfect diction are all part of the backdrop.

It’s the summer of 1939 when schoolteacher Thomas Miller (Eddie Izzard) takes on a last-minute role teaching English at the Augusta-Victoria College, Bexhill-on-Sea, a finishing school for girls on the south coast of England.

However, the students are not typical for such an establishment. Headmistress Miss Rocholl (Judi Dench) runs the school with her German assistant Ilse Keller (Carla Juri).  All 20 girls are daughters of the German High Command.  They are in England for their education, to study English along with learning how to represent the ideal of German womanhood.

With a new war with Germany imminent, the locals resent having such a group in their midst.

The body of the girls’ former teacher washes up on the beach. Miller, it transpires, has been sent to the school by the powers-that-be to find out exactly when the students are to be whisked back to Germany.  That would be the important signal that war is about to break out.

Before he gets anywhere, Miller is implicated in the murder of his Whitehall handler.

On the run to evade police capture, Miller is briefly aided by the local bus driver played by Jim Broadbent who is quite at home in this small role.

It is a race against time – of course it is – to prevent the students from leaving. The final scenes involving the girls are terrific.   Entertaining if somewhat formulaic there are still a few surprises.  It would not be a British film if it were otherwise.

3.5/5  Classified M  100 mins Released April 22

Cast: Judy Dench, Eddie Izzard, Jim Broadbent, James D’Arcy, Carla Juri

Directed by Andy Goddard

Screenplay by Andy Goddard, Eddie Izzard

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