Six Minutes to Midnight

Rating :   ⭐️ ⭐️ + ½

Categorisation: Spy Drama

Availability: In cinemas

Plot: Inspired by a true situation, Six Minutes to Midnight was directed by Andy Goddard (Downton Abbey), who also co-wrote the screenplay with Eddie Izzard and Celyn Jones. The film takes us into the world of the Augusta Victoria College, a finishing school for girls that was established exclusively for the daughters of the Nazi elite. It is 1939 and WW2 is yet to be declared. One of the teachers at the school mysteriously disappears, and the headmistress, Miss Rocholl, is having trouble finding a suitable replacement. Soon the reasons for the teacher’s disappearance become clear – there are sinister activities afoot. While wary of Thomas Miller, the new applicant for the position, Miss Rocholl agrees to take him on. Soon they are embroiled in espionage as Britain and Germany teeter on the brink of war and the school finds itself at the centre of it.

Cast: Actor, writer and comedian, Eddie Izzard co-wrote the script and also plays the key role of Miller, the new teacher. Izzard has clearly influenced the feel of the film, variously moving from the suave to the audacious to the comic. Ultimately this is at odds with the film’s initial framing of the story, and it creates a schism with respect to its intent – is it serious as the first scenes suggest, is it (James)Bondesque, or is it a Boys-Own adventure? Disappointingly, as the film progresses, Izzard plays to the latter. Judy Dench as Miss Rocholl tries to bring some nuanced depth to the film, but not nearly enough. Celyn Jones, also co-writer of the screenplay, takes the role of the stereotyped but ultimately heroic Corporal Willis (although we never really find out what happened to him). In this genre-confused film, despite a stellar cast, it’s difficult for anyone to make their mark.

Filming and setting: The Augusta Victoria College was actually situated in Bexham-on-Sea a small town in south east England, but the movie was filmed in Carmarthenshire, a county of South Wales. It is a wonderful setting, and cinematographer Chris Seager gets the most out of the stunning locations, in particular Penarth, Llandeilo and Swansea (Llansteffan Castle is featured early on, as is Penarth’s splendid Victorian pier). Seager excels in the first half of the film. His filming of the Nazi-influenced regimentation of the girls exercising is chilling. Unfortunately it all becomes less effective in the second half, when Seager has to try and make something of the comic scenes where Miller steals the uniform of a brass band musician, and embarks on seemingly never ending chases across never ending fields. Overall, the film has an old fashioned feel about it – one that might have been made in the 1930s or 40s, such as The Thirty-Nine Steps, but with the benefits of modern filming making.

Personal Comments: The Augusta Victoria College existed in real life, and after seeing the film I’m left wondering why the leaders of the Nazi regime sent their daughters to England, and what it might have been like for the girls in a small English town with a swastica stitched into their school badge. It would surely have been a fascinating story, but not one that this film has chosen to tell. Rather, it takes a less interesting route of a fictionalised, and predictable spy drama. But if you enjoy an adventure film in the style of the 1930s then you may well like this one.   

One Reply to “Six Minutes to Midnight”

  1. Yes I agree Marie. I saw this and it was a fun viewing with a disappointing ending, I think because of the generic differences you describe.

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