Set against the
idyllic British countryside during the glorious summer of 1939. Anne (Romola Garai), a budding young actress and eldest daughter of the venerable MP Sir Alexander Keyes (Bill Nighy), stumbles across secret recordings of a sinister plot to appease the Nazis. Shortly afterwards, her close friends die in suspicious circumstances, and she finds herself swept into a web of dark secrets and in increasing danger from a powerful and menacing enemy. With her most precious certainties destroyed and unable to trust even those closest to her, she comes to realise the full extent of her own betrayal and vulnerability.
Set against the
As conspiracy thrillers go, Stephen Poliakoff's Glorious 39 is downright daft, postulating that elements of the British Government, Secret Service, the Army and aristocracy were engaged in a heinous plot, stretching to blackmail and murder, to appease Hitler and end the country’s involvement in WWII.
Just as preposterous, the film would have you believe that highly incriminating gramophone recordings would be left lying around in a politician’s mansion for his adopted daughter to discover, after which she turns into a Miss Marple.
The real crime here is that a splendid performance by Romola Garai as the central character – it would be misleading to hail her as a heroine – is wasted in this utterly unconvincing, over-cooked melodrama of murky politics, betrayal and corruption.
Garai plays Anne Keyes, a budding actress who reads Keats to her apparently doting father Sir Alexander (Bill Nighy), a WWI veteran and Member of Parliament who adopted her then fathered two children, Ralph (Eddie Redmayne) and Celia (Juno Temple).
Anne finds recordings of a slimy chap from the Home Office (Jeremy Northam), an associate of her father’s, threatening a politician who was a vocal opponent of appeasement and who later died, supposedly a suicide victim.
Smelling a conspiracy, she enlists the aid of a fellow actor (Hugh Bonneville) and her drippy Foreign Office boyfriend (a bland Charlie Cox), and begins to suspect members of her family are involved.
The villains are so inept that Anne manages to slip away several times and then, when she gets the chance to expose the shenanigans, she does nothing. Huh? Garai handles a gamut of emotions with aplomb while Nighy appears so detached and immovable, he could be sleep-walking. Jenny Agutter appears briefly as his wife, who’s too busy gardening to notice the dastardly events unfolding around her.
Julie Christie wafts in and out as an imperious aunt and Christopher Lee and Corin Redgrave are elderly gents who book-end the story. The languorous pacing works against the tension and the ending is absurd.
Generous extras include audio commentary from the writer-director and Garai, and a featurette, On the Edge of War: Uncovering Glorious 39.