It’s hard to believe that 76 years after the end of WWII, there are still war stories to be told. British comedian, actor and activist Eddie Izzard (THE HIGH NOTE; BOYCHOIR), along with pal Celyn Jones, penned a fictional story set at the very real Augusta Victoria College, a private finishing school located in Bexhill-on-Sea on England’s south coast that was for seven years the home of some of the daughters of the Nazi High Command. (Some of the school’s alumnae apparently included the goddaughter of Heinrich Himmler, the daughter of Germany’s foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, Countess Haldenberg, niece to the German ambassador Herbert von Dirksen, and Isa von Bergen, the daughter of Hitler’s ambassador to the Vatican.)
In SIX MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT, Izzard plays Thomas Miller, an English teacher who gets hired by the school’s headmistress, Miss Rocholl (Judi Dench, CATS; MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS), on short notice after the sudden disappearance of their previous teacher. Miller, however, is no mere educator though. He’s actually a British spy who is sent to the school to not just find out what became of his predecessor, who was also there undercover, but to gather intel on the girls and their activities. With the prospect of war breaking out within days, Whitehall would prefer to have the girls on British soil where they can be used as bargaining chips against the Nazis. As Miller digs deeper into the goings on at the school, he uncovers a plot to spirit the girls back to Germany with the help of some Brits who have questionable allegiances.
Bless Izzard for thinking she could play a credible action hero. She can’t, and she is so miscast here that it’s laughable. Izzard describes herself as being genderfluid and she’s wearing so much makeup here and her hair is so anachronously styled that one might think that Nazis wouldn’t be Miller’s biggest problem. One of the German girls in his class even makes a comment about his demeanor. That’s not to say that effeminate male teachers didn’t exist back in 1939 but here it’s just an unnecessary distraction. But if that were the only problem with this film. Izzard, Jones (who also appears in the film as a police corporal) and director Andy Goddard (TV’s DOWNTON ABBEY) try to make SIX MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT into a Hitchcockian thriller and fail miserably with hackneyed dialogue, poorly staged and edited fight scenes, and a dearth of tension. Dench, meanwhile, is left to cluck around the sets like a mother hen, her character completely oblivious to what’s happening under her roof until its too late. The icing on the Black Forest cake comes when Ilsa (Carla Juri, BLADE RUNNER 2049), the school’s seemingly only other teacher, takes over Miller’s class and decides to give the girls a primer on Aryan superiority. Yeah, as if anti-Semitism didn’t exist in the UK already. Someone needs to remind Izzard that even The Duke and Duchess of Windsor (King Edward VII and Wallis Simpson) were Nazi sympathizers. In the end, SIX MINUTES is one gigantic cheesefest.
SIX MINUTES opens in our cinemas in Hong Kong on Thursday. This one’s a headshaker.
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, March 26th, 8:30 am HK time!
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