Glorious 39 (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/11/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 125 mins

Hugely entertaining and impressively directed, Glorious 39 is a gripping pre-war mystery thriller with a suspenseful script and terrific performances from a great cast.

What's it all about?
Directed by Stephen Poliakoff, Glorious 39 is set in the summer of 1939 and stars Romola Garai as Anne, the adopted daughter of Conservative politician Alexander Keyes and his wife Maud (Jenny Agutter), who went on to have two children of their own (Eddie Redmayne and Juno Temple). When an outspoken MP friend of the family (David Tennant) dies in mysterious circumstances, Anne believes she's stumbled on evidence that points towards a government conspiracy when she uncovers secret recordings that were being stored at their family home by a sinister Home Office official (Jeremy Northam).

Anne reveals her findings to her father and her brother, who works at the Foreign Office, but when their enquiries come to nothing, she decides to investigate on her own and turns to her boyfriend (Charlie Cox) and an actor friend (Hugh Bonneville) for help.

The Good
Poliakoff's direction is excellent, ensuring that the film moves from carefree pre-war drama to tense, suspenseful thriller before you're really aware of it. This effect continues throughout the film as things become darker and darker, so that the climax feels very potboiler-ish, but Poliakoff gives the finale a feverish intensity that's genuinely shocking and works surprisingly well.

Romola Garai is terrific in the lead and handles the film's shifts in tone brilliantly, as befits her wannabe-actress character who suddenly becomes drawn into events she doesn't fully understand – to that end, there's a definite air of Hitchcock in both her performance and the script itself. There's also fantastic support from Nighy, Agutter, Redmayne and Temple, whilst Hugh Bonneville makes a strong impression with a likeable role as Gilbert.

The Great
Poliakoff orchestrates some incredibly suspenseful scenes, creating an extremely creepy atmosphere where Anne has no idea who to trust. He also delivers at least one scene that is both disturbing and genuinely horrific to watch – cat-lovers, in particular, should probably avert their eyes as soon as the vet scene begins.

Worth seeing?
In short, Glorious 39 is an impressively directed, thoroughly absorbing thriller with a superb script and terrific performances from the entire cast. Hitchcockian, horrific (in places) and highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Glorious 39 (15)
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Content updated: 12/12/2017 04:31

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