“England can be an unforgiving place if you happen to be German”
17 days before the start of World War 2, English teacher Wheatley (Nigel Lindsay) goes missing from The Augusta-Victoria College for Girls in Bexley-on-Sea, the boarding school famous for housing the daughters and goddaughters of Nazi High Command. 6 days later Thomas Miller (Eddie Izzard) secures a job replacing Wheatley and from then on, tries to secretly find out what exactly happened. Inspired by true events, Six Minutes to Midnight is a period thriller written by Eddie Izzard, director Andy Goddard and co-writer Celyn Jones.
The film starts off strong, with fast-paced, intense scenes from Lindsey and Izzard. It’s accompanied by German composer Marc Streitenfeld’s beautiful score which is a delight to listen to throughout the film. This makes for a great start to the film, with an intriguing mystery to look forward to…or so you would hope. The drama soon slows to a crawl until the second half of the film, where the story picks up the pace and gets exciting when shocking truths start to unveil and revelations are unmasked.
As well as Eddie Izzard and Celyn Jones, the cast is filled with other great names like Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent, David Schofield, Kevin Eldon and James D’Arcy, which of course helps the film excel even more. Not only does an all star cast help ‘make’ a film (because who wouldn’t watch a film with Dame Judi in?), it also grabs the audience’s attention. In this instance, it keeps them fully engaged to the very end.Some might see this as ‘just another WWII film’, which to some extent it is, but what makes this film unique and intriguing is the backstory and the place in which the film is set. The Augusta-Victoria College is a story in itself as it has great historical significance, despite not being what you would probably call a notably famous place.
How much was fact and how much was fiction I do not exactly know, but the context still remains the same: this was a boarding school that taught Nazi offspring. It’s quite sickening to watch as these young impressionable girls make the infamous Nazi salutes whilst wearing the swastika symbol embellished on their school blazers. You can’t help getting emotional, and carried away with anger.
I wasn’t too fond of Izzard’s acting, but when you’re in a film with The Dench, it’s always hard to compare. As always, Dench knocks it out of the park once again, but this time as Headmistress Miss Rocholl. At first she’s a fierce elderly woman who takes no shit, but then slowly her character starts to develop and we see her open up, displaying her softer side.
It’s a joy to see fresh-faced German actors take to the big screen as we get introduced to Astrid and Gretal, two of the main students played by Maria Dragus (as Astrid) and Tijan Marei (as Gretal). The person who slightly pips it for me is Swiss actress Carla Juri as Ilse, the supporting female role with suspicious intentions for the girls at the boarding school.
It’s a shame I didn’t enjoy the film in its entirety, although I have to say the last half was juicier and more compelling than the first half, with such intense scenes that I was almost at the edge of my seat. I appreciated the ending profusely. It felt ‘complete’ even though you’re instantly reminded of the horrors to come with the outbreak of war. Six Minutes to Midnight is worth watching, especially for the incredible soundtrack, the constant suspense, and of course, The Dench.