“Six Minutes to Midnight” (M) **
WHAT a disappointment this film turns out to be!
Its narrative basis is fiction. Its dramatic basis unfolds among a minor historical truth leading up to the beginning of World War II that history has, if not forgotten, at best ignored.
Open from 1932 to 1939, the Augusta Victoria College (AVC) at Bexhill-on-sea, in Sussex, was a Nazi school for teenage girls and young women ages 16-21. For the film’s purposes, they number about 20, drawn from families in the upper ranks of the Nazi regime.
The authors of the screenplay for the film include Eddie Izzard, who also plays main protagonist Capt Thomas Miller, inserted into AVC by the War Office late in August, 1939, to find out what happened to the male English-language teacher.
From a brief prequel, we know the answer to that question. It’s the first of a number of historical bloopers in the film.
Izzard’s co-authors are actor Celyn Jones (also playing Cpl Willis who comes to an unfortunate end after precipitating an important moment in resolving the dilemma wrapped up in the story) and director Andy Goddard.
James D’arcy plays Willis’ commanding officer Capt Drey, who turns out to be not what we have been led to believe. Carla Juri plays one of the story’s two villains, senior class mistress Ilse, concealing active Nazi sympathies and active connections with Berlin (history records no such connection).
I came to “Six Minutes to Midnight” with some optimism influenced by a strong pre-release promotion campaign featuring Judi Dench who can do no wrong in my playbook, as the film’s only genuinely real character, AVC principal and Nazi supporter Frau Helene Rocholl, in the film a loyal Englishwoman.
I left the screening disappointed. I can forgive the anachronisms, too numerous to list. But not the sloppy screenplay, trying hard to be genuine but not succeeding when staging many of its fictional moments.
At all cinemas