Assessment: A pre-WWII thriller in ‘Six Minutes to Midnight’

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Within the years earlier than World Conflict II, the Augusta-Victoria School, a women’ boarding faculty in Bexhill-on-Sea, catered to a really particular viewers: the daughters and goddaughters of essential Germans and excessive rating Nazi officers

Within the years earlier than World Conflict II, the Augusta-Victoria School, a women’ boarding faculty in Bexhill-on-Sea, catered to a really particular viewers: The daughters and goddaughters of essential Germans and excessive rating Nazi officers. It’s believed that the intent of the college was to teach the ladies within the language and British customs and was a part of a method to maintain England and Germany shut. Patches on their uniforms displayed a union jack and a swastika.

It’s this patch that caught the attention of Eddie Izzard years in the past at a neighborhood museum. Izzard can also be a product of Bexhill, though she was born within the Nineteen Sixties. However the concept of this faculty and this seemingly underwritten chapter in historical past was intriguing sufficient to set her on a yearslong journey researching the peculiar establishment that operated in plain sight when anti-German sentiment was fairly excessive. The result’s “ Six Minutes to Midnight, ” a good thriller that dials up the joy across the Augusta-Victoria School with invented murders, intrigue, cops, spies and a secret plot to get the ladies out of England earlier than the struggle breaks out.

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Izzard, who co-wrote the script with Celyn Jones (who additionally acts within the movie) and director Andy Goddard, performs the a part of Thomas Miller, who involves the college to interview for a place after the earlier trainer, Mr. Wheatley (Nigel Lindsay), disappears. The headmistress, Miss Rocholl (Judi Dench) is somewhat cautious of Miller’s journeyman resume however offers him a shot after she learns that his father was German and he speaks the language. He rapidly endears himself to many of the women but additionally begins noticing increasingly oddities in regards to the propaganda-y instruction of the college’s German teacher Ilse (Carla Juri) — who listens to Nazi broadcasts and leads “sieg heil” chants.

Miller, we uncover, has an agenda as nicely. He’s working alongside the British Secret Service to research the college and Wheatley’s disappearance. Issues get extra pressing when Wheatley’s physique washes up on the shore and, later, Miller overhears a plan to evacuate the ladies in the midst of the night time and ship them again to Germany.

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“Six Minutes to Midnight” is entertaining sufficient if somewhat underwhelming. It’s handsomely and nostalgically shot in a colourful seaside locale, which should not be shocking contemplating Goddard additionally has “Downton Abbey” credit to his identify. It follows the script (and cliches) for a classical spy thriller. And it has likable actors all through: Izzard is empathetic and compelling; Dench will get a correct and respectable position after the “Cats” and “Artemis Fowl” disasters; James D’Arcy eats up his scenes as an conceited cop; and Jim Broadbent provides a little bit of life and pleasure as an affable bus driver.

However the movie can also be moderately rushed and appears disinterested within the particulars of its personal story. Hardly ever do you ever want for one thing to be longer, however “Six Minutes to Midnight” most likely would have benefitted from 30 further minutes of character growth and scene setting. The movie would not depart any respiration room to get to know or care in regards to the teenage women on the heart of every little thing or get a way of what it was wish to be a German teen in Sussex in 1939. We do not know what they really feel about issues: Their heritage, their dad and mom, Ilse (one other imprecise thriller) or the upcoming struggle. It makes it arduous to really feel a lot of something for them or their destiny by the climax.

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Maybe Izzard was merely cautious of falling sufferer to her personal jokes about quiet and refined British movies and wished to get proper to the motion. “Six Minutes to Midnight,” for better or worse, is definitely something you can eat popcorn to.

“Six Minutes to Midnight,” an IFC Films release in theaters Friday, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some violence.” Running time: 102 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

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MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr