Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery, Allen Leech, Jim Carter, Lesley Nicol, Imelda Staunton, Laura Carmichael, Penelope Wilton
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…the cinematic equivalent of Brexit, if only it was that thought provoking.
We live in uncertain times and Downton Abbey provides certainty, especially for white people. Audiences who have lavished in the six seasons of the popular television show will get exactly what they came for. Whether that makes it a good film is another matter altogether.
Julian Fellowes, who came to prominence with the screenplay for one of Robert Altman’s last hurrahs, Gosford Park, has written the screenplay here, extending his footprint for the show that he also created. Without a director of nuance like Altman, though, what you get with Downton Abbey is television on the big screen, and is that enough?
The plot hinges on a royal visit to the estate, and really, that is it. Downstairs, everyone is concerned about what and how to accommodate them, whilst upstairs, various interpersonal issues arise. The MVP is Allen Leech’s Tom Branson, an Irishman who married into the Crawleys, and who actually has a compelling character arc in the film. And as expected, Maggie Smith quips all of the zingers in the screenplay.
There is zero introspection in Downton Abbey. All of the servants love the monarchy, there is barely any life for anyone outside the estate, zero diversity, there’s even a misplaced joke about Botany Bay – it’s the cinematic equivalent of Brexit, if only it was that thought provoking. The dialogue is highly expository, especially as things wind up and the big twist is revealed.
Rome is burning, whilst everything is hunky dory in Downton Abbey. What’s worse is that this blockbuster (its wholly uncinematic approach gives a bad name to ‘blockbuster’) will mean that better and far more cinematic films are barely released, or worse still, go straight to streaming platforms, which is exactly where Downton Abbey belongs.