Movie Review: Red Joan(PG)

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  • While the James Bond legacy continues on route to a silver anniversary a veteran 007 cast member proves she still can more than hold her own in Red Joan. Inspiring and extremely effective this Mongrel Media release is now causing quite the stir at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas.
    Mature men and women looking for something just a touch more substantive than the global Avengers assault will find it with this cultural gem. Funny how sometimes the best films are based on true stories. Having honed his teeth In the Theatre first time director Trevor Nunn looks to have settled in quite nicely here. You can sense that intimate theatre setting that expands exponentially as we trace the rather tumultuous life of Melita Norwood. And having Dame Judi Dench (Casino Royale) as the lead seals the deal in this enticing expose of a spy whose motives may in fact be noble.
    Being the best M since Bernard Lee’s Classic Sean Connery era Dame Judi stars as the elderly Joan Stanley. Set in modern times Ms. Stanley seems content minding her garden, imagine the surprise when British Intelligence descends on her lair and takes the woman into custody. Knives come out and we’re left with a crackerjack tale of intrigue that seeps back into the mists of time.
    Cambridge is a world class university and back In the late 1930s our freshmen student had an inking for physics. Being young and naive somehow this wayward lass got involved with the wrong crowd just as socialism took root among some in British society including those oh so delusional students. Star struck and man hungry Joan is taken in by a charismatic Bolshevist crusader who ultimately leads her on a merry quest to help Mother Russia. Will she or won’t she? Did she or didn’t she turn state secrets is at the heart of Red Joan.
    Effective, entertaining and engaging throughout Red Joan puts the spying back in pop culture and does it without the fanfare or high tech wizardly so common in such global crowd-pleasing fare. Sometimes less is more and small is good and here both Judi Dench and her younger persona as captured by Sophie Cookson are riveting. Blessed with a great cast and superb recreation of the 30s era when the Red Scare took hold Red Joan is a terrific drama that may just have changed the course of history. You decide.
    (By Robert Waldman)

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