Director: Michael Engler
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Laura Carmichael, Raquel Cassidy, Michelle Dockerty, Elizabeth McGovern, Joanne Froggatt, Matthew Goode, Tuppence Middleton, Allen Leech, Imelda Staunton, Robert James-Collier, Sophie McShera, Jim Carter, Penelope Wilton, Brendan Coyle, Phyllis Logan, Lesley Nicol, Kevin Doyle
Written by: (based on the characters created) Julian Fellowes
Running Time: 120 mins
Release date: 13th September 2019
The UK has a rich tradition of transferring popular television series to the big screen. Sit-coms like On The Buses, Are You Being Served and Porridge was turned into movies, allowing the film versions to release the casts from their studio bases to bigger locations. Now the quintessential British Sunday night show, Downton Abbey, has been released from the small screen to the cinematic universe, yet unlike past spin-off movies, this is exactly like the show but on a grander scale.
Great excitement for both the Crawley family and the staff of Downton Abbey, as a King and Queen are coming to visit. Things, obviously don’t run smoothly when the head butler to the Royal couple refuses the loyal staff of the estate to serve them, while Lady Mary Crawley fears the event is far too big for her to deal with and a family member returns to the fold that rattles the Dowager, Countess of Grantham.
Downton Abbey finished its run in 2016 and the fans have been screaming for a big-screen outing. The second the chords of the familiar theme tune kick in, you immediately feel like you’ve slipped into your favourite slippers, grabbed a cuppa and relaxed. The cinematography is more sweeping, the vastness of the scale is bigger, and the production department has their work cut out to make sure the details are perfect. Yet it immediately feels safe and secure. This is a bigger version of the show but nothing else has changed.
Brimming with polite conversations, pomp and ceremony, characters you know and love, and plenty of shots of that famous residence. The plot is wafer-thin but as with the show, writer and creator Julian Fellowes have enough characters to mix together enough subplots to keep the attention of the viewer. While the planning of the royal visit is occurring we get forbidden love, missing personal belongings, strangers arriving with ulterior motives and a family rivalry.
None of these subplots become intrusive and is all neatly sewn up before the final credits. This is a film made for the fans of the show but those coming to it for the first time won’t find it too hard to pick up. I used to watch the show but gave up after four series, so many things have happened since then, yet it took seconds to know who is who and their place in this world.
As with the settings and the familiarity of the storylines make you feel comfortable, so are the performances, with all the major players returning to the roles they have spent years nurturing. Dame Maggie Smith, as she did in the show, steals the film as the Dowager, with the scenes between her and Penelope Wilton being the most entertaining.
Downton Abbey does what it has always done: it takes us to a simpler time when the most shocking thing would be a blue stain on a carpet. Yet for two hours, you laugh, you cry and you feel like your receiving a great big hug from some old friends. This is a film in which the word nice can be taken as a huge compliment.