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United Kingdom 2009
Directed by
Stephen Poliakoff
123 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Glorious 39

Glorious 39 takes the familiar 'tween-wars costume drama that the British do so well and invests it with a touch of the paranoia thriller and a disconcertingly menacing streak, unsettling aspects which don't entirely bind and which perhaps explain why it did not get a theatrical release in Australia. Which is not to say that it is not a worthy film

The title refers to the year 1939 and the story is set in the unusually balmy summer of that year. Whilst the Chamberlain Government placates Hitler the aristocratic Keyes family enjoy life on their country estate. Anne Keyes (Romolo Garai), the adopted daughter of Lord Alexander Keyes (Bill Nighy) discovers secret government documents and recordings stored in a shed on the family estate and this leads her slowly to uncover what appears to be a conspiracy to broker a deal with Hitler that, as she slowly starts to realize, involves members of her own family (a related theme was notably explored in Merchant-Ivory's 1993 film, The Remains Of The Day).

Writer-director Stephen Poliakoff walks a fine and sometimes unsteady line between a sedate country house whodunit and hyperbolic paranoia.thriller, faring much better in the latter respect as both Anne and we the audience become increasingly uncertain about who she can trust. The fact that there is an undercurrent of truth to the story helps to make the story more intriguing.  Yet, although according to Poliakoff the secret service really was used by Government to suppress opposition to its policy of appeasement, the problem is that this complicity is taken to rather unreal lengths, culminating in a Baroque scene in which Anne finds the body of her beau trussed up with lot of dead domestic animals in a vet's ghoulish storehouse

Romola Garai, a seductive screen presence who had been so good in François Ozon's Angel (2007) again gives a winning performance in the lead whilst a tip-top cast includes beside Nighy, who is excellent as the ultra-charming paterfamilias and Eddie Redmayne as his chip-off-the-old-block but quite horrid son, Ralph, Christopher Lee, Julie Christie, Jeremy Northam and Hugh Bonneville, a roster further raising the stakes in what is a handsome production.

FYI:  For a thematically-similar film see Merchant-Ivory's The Remains Of The Day (1993)


DVD Extras: Audio Commentary with Poliakoff and Garai; a production featurette, On The Edge Of War, Uncovering Glorious 39; Theatrical trailer.

Available from: Madman




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