Despite strong performances from Cookson and Dench, this potentially exciting espionage tale is dreary and forgettable.
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A good old-fashioned British spy thriller.
Tweedy, dreary, and unconvincing. ... It’s dismaying that so little drama is wrung out of the tale, and that what we get too often feels like a cliché-riddled romantic pulp.
Leave it to the feted British theater director Trevor Nunn to flatten the intrigue and dampen the lust that could have made Red Joan zing.
It’s always dangerous to wonder about what a film might have been rather than contending with what it is, but in this case what it is, is so bland, and so stolidly workmanlike in execution that even the most dedicated viewer might find her attention sliding off DP Zac Nicholson‘s ration-book-colored images and wandering to the what-ifs.
Red Joan is unlikely to appeal to younger audiences and many may find the wartime plot, setting and slow-paced romance old-fashioned, but it will win fans because there is much to admire: The solid acting, Lindsay Shapero’s deft screen adaptation, Zac Nicholson’s evocative cinematography, accompanied by George Fenton’s original score.
Quite simply, there is not enough Dench, not enough Old Joan, not enough about how she feels about the decades of deceit, and tension, and becalmed ordinariness, far from the drama of espionage.
Lindsey Shapiro has captured an intriguing piece of hidden history, showcasing women’s strengths and the overlooked roles they played during the world’s most turbulent times of war.
Solidly competent and, for the most part, well acted the, film employs a safe, familiar approach and lacks the distinctive element which could boost its box office potential.