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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Red Joan (2019)

An elderly retired physicist (Judi Dench) is arrested as a spy for the Soviet Union. The film alternates between her interrogation by government authorities and her backstory which dates back to her Cambridge days in the late 1930s. Based on the novel by Jennie Rooney which was inspired by the true story of Melita Norwood, known as the "granny spy" and directed by Trevor Nunn. While not quite as bad as its reviews would lead you to believe, it's still a pretty dreary piece of movie making. It's the kind of stuff you can see on PBS (not a slam against PBS) readily. Despite her star billing, Dench gets minimal screen time and the focus is on her "spy" years where her character is played by Sophie Cookson so Dench fans might feel cheated. I was irritated by the lame justifications for her reasons for betraying her country ("I wanted a level playing field") and the film seems to be agreeing with her that that was enough and she shouldn't be judged. The real Norwood was never prosecuted because of her age. You'd think a more compelling movie could be made out of a situation like this but I had a hard time keeping my eyes open (and I wasn't even sleepy). With Tom Hughes, Tereza Srbova and Ben Miles.

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