Within the years earlier than World Conflict II, the Augusta-Victoria School, a ladies’ boarding college in Bexhill-on-Sea, catered to a really particular viewers: The daughters and goddaughters of vital 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 an area museum. Izzard can be a product of Bexhill, though she was born within the Nineteen Sixties. However the concept of this college 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 thrill 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 warfare breaks out.
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 a lot of the ladies but additionally begins noticing increasingly more oddities concerning 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 properly. 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 course of the night time and ship them again to Germany.
“Six Minutes to Midnight” is entertaining sufficient if somewhat underwhelming. It’s handsomely and nostalgically shot in a colourful seaside locale, which shouldn’t be shocking contemplating Goddard additionally has “Downton Abbey” credit to his title. 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 smug cop; and Jim Broadbent provides a little bit of life and pleasure as an affable bus driver.
However the movie can be reasonably 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 additional minutes of character improvement and scene setting. The movie doesn’t go away any respiration room to get to know or care concerning the teenage ladies on the middle of every part or get a way of what it was prefer to be a German teen in Sussex in 1939. We don’t know what they really feel about issues: Their heritage, their dad and mom, Ilse (one other obscure thriller) or the upcoming warfare. It makes it arduous to really feel a lot of something for them or their destiny by the climax.
Maybe Izzard was merely cautious of falling sufferer to her own jokes about quiet and subtle British films and wanted to get right to the action. “Six Minutes to Midnight,” for higher or worse, is unquestionably one thing you may eat popcorn to.
“Six Minutes to Midnight,” an IFC Movies launch in theaters Friday, is rated PG-13 by the Movement Image Affiliation of America for “some violence.” Operating time: 102 minutes. Two and a half stars out of 4.
MPAA Definition of PG-13: Dad and mom strongly cautioned. Some materials could also be inappropriate for youngsters beneath 13.
Comply with AP Movie Author Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr