Six Minutes to Midnight review – Eddie Izzard miscast in strained Nazi-school yarn | Film

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Eddie Izzard, comedy genius and heroic campaigner for the European cause, is bizarrely miscast in a deadpan-serious acting role for this weird, strained, second world war spy melodrama inspired by a stranger-than-fiction true story. The transgender star switches back here to what Izzard has playfully called “boy mode” for a boy’s-own-story in the style of John Buchan or Erskine Childers, or maybe one of Michael Palin’s Ripping Yarns, though with the jokes and comic self-awareness systematically removed. It’s a muddled, unrelaxed tale from Izzard as co-writer and co-producer, whose dramatic gears keep slipping, and which is never entirely sure where our sympathies should lie.

Izzard plays Thomas 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; he is interviewed for the job by the naively pro-German English headmistress Miss Rocholl (with Judi Dench sleepwalking through the role). 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. Izzard imagines what might happen if, as war loomed, this place was the centre of a Nazi intelligence plot.

A lively idea for a drama, but the sheer oddity of the real-life premise slows it down, and the film is unsure about whether we should see these teen blonde Mädchen pupils as Midwich-Cuckoo mini-Nazis or as poignant dupes. A spy story depends on secrecy and concealment, but this school is entirely open about its pro-German and pro-Nazi leanings from the outset. As for the character of Miller, he is supposed to be a real action hero, and there are loads of shots of Izzard running athletically and surreally away from the camera across open fields. The film itself runs out of breath.

Six Minutes to Midnight is released on 26 March on Sky Cinema.

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Source: The Guardian
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