Glorious 39 (UK - DVD R2)
Our Marcus enjoys a slightly different look at pre World War II Britain on DVD
A young boy visits his only surviving relatives (one of whom is played by the always great Christopher Lee) to try and find out what happened to a long lost family member, Anne Keyes (Romola Garai). The now old men begin the story in 1939 Britain and with the country on the brink of joining another great war.
The Keyes family are trying to retain their way of life, with shindigs in their country home and evenings spent hearing Anne read to them, but when close family friend and MP Hector Haldane (David Tennant) is reported dead by suicide—and all this after he’d aired his views on bringing down the current leadership in front of secret service man Balcombe (Jeremy Northam)—Anne begins questioning the darker goings on behind the scenes.
Glorious 39's opening scenes screamed ‘British movie’ with its well spoken children, wide open British countryside and men talking like every line of dialogue should end with a charming ‘old chap’, which for me can be a bit of a turn off. Thankfully Glorious 39 didn’t turn out be as twee as that and actually proved to be pretty damn engaging.
The slow unravelling that shows a darker underbelly of a country's resistance to go to war and the steps some will take to retain a way of life is an interesting one and seeing it through the eyes of the character of Anne, who for the longest of time has no real understanding of the sinister events mounting up around her, is a fine angle to capture a real sense of unease.
Writer/director Stephen Poliakoff shows a solid sense of pacing and really understands the strength of his well timed reveals. The dialogue is subtly brilliant in places and some of the visuals here really do the trick (I mean nothing makes you feel uneasy like a room full of dead animals, right?). Anne’s struggle as she discovers the truth about her family members and friends are beautifully plotted and as each secret is revealed the tension of Anne’s plight builds and builds making for a fine thriller in a very interesting period of time, that usually shows every member of the country ready to arm up and get warring.
The interaction between Anne and the other characters range from genuine affection to almost abstract and even though the story is looking at a precise part of history, the abstract moments or odd dialogue choices gave me a real sense that much of the story was a metaphor for the mistreatment of Britain as much as it was the mistreatment of Anne (hey, maybe that was just me seeing things that weren't there. I guess a repeat viewing will tell).
From the bright green British countryside to the stark mysterious grey of the city, Glorious 39’s transfer does plenty to impress. Colours are presented well, mostly within the period costumes of the characters and skin tones look incredibly natural within the well lit scenes.
While the image isn’t as sharp as HD, it still manages to look pretty decent for the most part and the sun lit external scenes look great, especially when the sun is filtered through the trees in the creepier scenes. Internal scenes also create a nice warm atmosphere and everything is shown off well in this clean, almost grain free transfer.
Glorious 39 is a dialogue heavy affair and all of it sounds pretty good within the track. There’s never any call for the track to perform as the war is kept out of the visuals. Beyond one instance of a bomb raid siren and some of the more bass driven thriller aspects to the score, the audio track only really plays with the rear speakers when layering in the subtle effects of the rain outside or the chirping of the summertime countryside.
The commentary from writer/director Stephen Poliakoff and actress Romola Garai is pretty much led by Poliakoff, giving technical details and historical facts with the odd nugget of input from Garai. It’s a solid commentary but not that exciting really.
‘On the Edge of War: Uncovering Glorious 39’ (08:08) is a collection of cast and director interviews interspliced with on-set footage and clips. There’s a lot of back slapping, especially for Stephen Poliakoff and generally it’s a nice making of.
‘Close Up - Stephen Poliakoff’ (25:09) is a series of questions answered by the director. It repeats a little on the last mini making of but goes into a lot more detail and proved to be an interesting watch.
‘Glorious 39: London Premiere’ (02:25) is a short and sweet look at the London event with a few more interviews and the Costume Gallery Sketches and Photo Gallery fill up the rest of the features before we end with the trailer (01:54).
In the end, I found Glorious 39 to be a thoroughly rewarding, engrossing and enjoyable little movie, with Romola Garai providing a fine lead performance in a story depicting a country on the precipice of change.
The DVD looks great, has a subtle but effective audio track, and has a nice batch of features, so if you’re after a little bit of alterative war time history with a good sense of tension and mystery, you can’t really go too far wrong. Glorious 39 is a fine slice of British filmmaking.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 29th March 2010
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Audio Decription Service English
Extras: Commentary, Featurettes, Trailer, Galleries.
Easter Egg: No
Director: Stephen Poliakoff
Cast: Romola Garai, Bill Nighy, Julie Christie, David Tennant
Genre: Drama, Thriller and War
Length: 123 minutes
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