red joan

★★★

DIRECTOR: trevor nunn (twelfth night, hedda)
STARRING: sophie cookson, tom hughes, stephen campbell moore, and judi dench

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

Joan Stanley, an old age pensioner, is accused of spying for Russia during World War II. 

There are two things that I truly love. Spy films and Dame Judi Dench. Both are mysterious, alluring, with a sparkle in their eye. So when I saw that both were joining together in Red Joan I was over the moon. But unfortunately Red Joan doesn't quite get her tinker, tailor, soldier, and spy all in a nice, neat row. 

Joan Stanley is living a quite retired life in suburbia when MI5 come knocking a the door and arrest her, accusing her of spying for Russia during WWII. Cut to late 1930's Cambridge and we meet the young Joan who falls for the handsome young communist Leo who begins to show her a new world. As she works for a top - secret research facility during the war Joan must choose between betraying her country and saving the world from destruction. 

You can't help but feeling that Red Joan would be better described as a drama than a spy drama. Theres not a heck of a load of suspense or really much mystery - its more an exploration of Joan's choice between treason and world peace. The mysteries that abound throughout the film are quite easily guessed early on and you have to wait for the film to catch up to where you've already arrived. 

That being said Red Joan is still a more than enjoyable watch with a great central performance from Sophie Cookson as the young Joan. She had kinda slipped off the radar since the first Kingsman film and its fantastic to see her being allowed to flex her acting muscles in a bigger role. 

Judi Dench's role as the older Joan is more of a supporting role but every scene she's in she steals with a glance or a sigh. And after all these years she's still got that bright old twinkle in her eyes. 

 

More drama than spy thriller, Red Joan is a good little film with a standout lead performance from Sophie Cookson.

★★★

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Red Joan is available on DVD and digital from all good disc and digital retailers. 

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