Red Joan

Director: Trevor Nunn
Starring: Judi Dench, Sophie Cookson, Stephen Campbell Moore
Genre: Dench, Judy Dench

Red Joan is probably the least thrilling spy film ever made. Those expecting action along the lines of Judy Dench’s day job in the Bond series will be sorely disappointed. Even the one suspicious death in the film is treated in such an understated manner you wonder if he died of natural causes.

Red Joan is based on a true story, but only loosely. There was a “granny spy” exposed by MI5 in the 1980s for her activities 30 years earlier. But rather than being the ethically conflicted opportunist recruited by a Russian love interest portrayed in the film, she was actually a card-carrying communist sympathiser. Given these changes, it’s a surprise the filmmakers didn’t take the opportunity to ramp up the action and at least generate some suspense. There isn’t a shot fired in the entire film, no car chases, no gadgets and no nudity (there is some kissing).

Indeed not only is Red Joan the opposite of Bond films in terms of action, Dench plays someone her Bond persona would chase. And not through shoot-outs and fist-fights in exotic locations with heartthrob starlets and gents in dinner jackets, but via years of careful surveillance in suburban London of an elderly woman in a cardigan followed by an anticlimactic knock on the door. The way real spy work actually happens. Alas.

Rating: Rating: Three decades of not much.

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