minutes to midnight (cinema release 2020)

Set in the real-life Augusta-Victoria College, located in the English coastal town of Bexhill-On-Sea, this spy vs spy,  pre-WW2 thriller is loosely based on a true story.

In the Summer months of 1939, as the tension between Germany and England rapidly builds, this finishing school for the daughters of the Nazi elite is suspected of being a safe-house for Nazi sympathisers.

With suspicions of possible espionage, the British secret service put the school under covert surveillance.

After his predecessor has mysteriously disappeared, British agent Thomas Miller (Eddie Izzard) masquerades as a school teacher in an attempt to uncover a possible plot to repatriate the pupils to Germany secretly.

His suspicions are raised even more when he experiences blatant mistrust from the school faculty and realises that the school’s badge incorporates a Swastika on one side and a Union Jack on the other.

Even though discipline is increasingly reflective of harsh Nazi ideals, the school’s governess Miss Rocholl (Dame Judi Dench), surprisingly appears ignorant to any devious doings, clearly believing they are merely cultivating prim and proper young ladies

Sensing that they are being ‘spied on’ Ilse Keller (Carla Juri), the girls’ German tutor, who has a few dark secrets of her own, goes to great lengths to ensure that the values of the Third Reich are instilled into these mostly innocent and easily corruptible young ladies

As the potential evacuation hour of the girls draws closer, the tension builds when the MI5 Captain Drey (James D’Arcy) as Corporal Willis (Celyn Jones) investigate the suspected murder of a former teacher. It is here that the story slips into the classic spy mode, and we are left guessing ‘who is who?’ and ‘which side are they really on’?

An almost believable game of ‘hide and seek’ develops, and with the aid of a jovial, obliging bus driver named Charlie (Jim Broadbent ), the ‘catch me if you can’ continues.

I feel that this old-time B-Grade spy-drama has been made about 90years too late, and if it were presented in black and white, it could pass as a typical anti-Nazi propaganda film from the 1930s-40s.

As we approach the climax, unfortunately, there are at times a few too many ‘how did that happen?’ and ‘what happened there?’ moments eroding any of the viewing pleasure created by the impressive cast.

It is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Although the impressive ensemble of actors does an excellent job keeping the story moving, sadly, the inconsistencies in the script hinder it from being the enjoyable experience it could have been.  I will be surprised if it has a lengthy run at the cinema.

It is interesting to note that the school was closed on Aug 26th 1939, and the remaining students and teachers were transported back to Germany on civilian planes and boats. A week later, on Sept 3rd, Germany and Britain were at war. The building still stands today.

 

If you would like to view the trailer ‘click’ the link below