Six Minutes to Midnight (12A)
Six Minutes to Midnight (12A)
Director: Andy Goddard
Runtime: 99 minutes
Cast: Judi Dench, Eddie Izzard, James D’Arcy, Jim Broadbent, Carla Juri, Nigel Lindsay
Synopsis: Summer 1939. Influential families in Nazi Germany have sent their daughters to a finishing school in an English seaside town to learn the language and be ambassadors for a future looking National Socialist. A teacher there sees what is coming and is trying to raise the alarm. But the authorities believe he is the problem.
Directed by Andy Goddard [Set Fire to the Stars.TV (2014), Downton Abbey TV (2011-12) and Doctor Who TV (2008)] and co-written by Eddie Izzard who also stars Six Minutes to Midnight is spy melodrama set around a real school which was in Bexhill-on-Sea.
Izzard, who grew up in the area and is a patron of the local museum has said that he was shown a school blazer badge featuring a Union Jack and a swastika which inspired his story.
In Summer 1939, Hitler’s power is growing and tensions between the UK and Germany are at boiling point. The Augusta Victoria College, a finishing school for daughters and goddaughters of the Nazi elite on the south-coast of England, is under close scrutiny after the mysterious disappearance of their teacher Mr Wheatley (Nigel Lindsay) The school governess, Miss Rocholl (Judi Dench), hires English teacher Thomas Miller (Eddie Izzard) to replace Wheatley and help prepare the girls for the Anglo-German fellowship. Miller slowly raises the suspicions of Ilse Keller (Carla Juri), the girls’ German tutor, who has secrets of her own. Caught in the crossfires, Miller is framed for murder and goes on the run to clear his name and uncover Ilse’s true plan for the girls. Can he stop her before it is too late?
A curious second world war spy melodrama inspired by a stranger-than-fiction true story which often has a feel of a John Buchan story with Miller, a teacher of Anglo-German ancestry who in the fraught summer of 1939 takes a job at the Augusta Victoria college in Bexhill-on-Sea, a kind of genteel finishing school for expatriate German adolescent girls.
When he is framed for murder and must save himself and the fate of Britain also there are scenes of him fleeing Richard Hannay-like across fields. Izzard is excellent, as is Dench as the naively pro-German English headmistress Miss Rocholl. They are backed by a strong ensemble. Effective cinematography from Chris Seager and an atmospheric score by Marc Streitenfeld enhance the many sinister, suspenseful twists in the plot.
That this extraordinary school really did exist throughout the 1930s, with a swastika discreetly sewn into its crest next to the union jack, and it was attended by the daughters and god-daughters of some very senior Nazis is almost unbelievable.
Izzard imagines what might happen if, as war loomed, this place was the centre of a Nazi intelligence plot.
Six Minutes to Midnight is streaming on Sky Cinema.
Images courtesy of Sky Cinema