Sand In An Hourglass

Six Minutes To Midnight
Stars: Eddie Izzard, Judi Dench, Carla Juri, James D’Arcy, Jim Broadbent. Celyn Jones and David Schofield
Director: Andy Goddard
Scriptwriters: Andy Goddard, Celyn Jones and Eddie Izzard
Composer: Marc Streitenfeld
Cinematography: Chris Seager
West Madison Entertainment/Lionsgate
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 99 Minutes 

British actor Eddie Izzard (“The High Note”) takes on the role of a spy in this thriller about what is really happening in an exclusive girl’s school in Great Britain before WWII. The film is directed by Andy Goddard, who co-wrote the script with Izzard and actor Celyn Jones. The school is a real one that existed during the time period of the film. What sets this film apart, is the way it is directed.  There are authors who have long chapters to their books and other authors with chapters that may be two pages long. There are directors who have long scenes that go on for minutes and minutes and short scenes that may last 60 seconds. “Six Minutes To Midnight” is a shorter-scene film, and in that, music, acting and cinematography mix to form a story of wartime and bravery. 

The film begins with a teacher disappearing from a girl's finishing school near the coastline. A substitute teacher, Thomas Miller (Eddie Izzard) appears for this temporary job, and gets lost only to be found by a friendly bus driver, Charlie (Jim Broadbent (“Black Narcissus”). Miller meets the headmistress, Miss Rocholl (Judi Dench from “Murder On The Orient Express”), who wants the best for her students.   The girls are actually daughters of Nazi Commanders and going to school to learn to speak English. Also, at the school is another teacher, Ilse (Carla Juri from “Blade Runner 2049”) who is quietly taking over at the school and why?  In the meantime, a body is washed ashore, the school is turned into a mysterious place, and Miller  is accused of murder by the local police (James D’Arcy from “Homeland” and Celyn Jones from “Born A King”).

 In this spy thriller are unintentional moments---in the middle of nowhere is a telephone booth. Almost expected “Dr. Who” to come forth. That aside, “Six Minutes To Midnight,” has two stories in it.  One is about suspected spy activities that may be going on at the school, and the other is why the headmistress has this school for girls. The latter story, which involves on Judi Dench, gives us a woman who wants the best for young women and for them to be able to be in society and make a place for themselves. The spy part of the film concerns using the girls as future links to English-speaking countries as Hitler’s government increases in power. This is pre-WWII and the atmosphere of fear is beginning to take hold throughout Europe. 

The actors do well, especially Eddie Izzard as the substitute teacher trying to be a part of the school curriculum and trying to find out what is going on there.  Jim Broadbent, in a brief role as the bus driver, has a serious scene that he does well.  Judi Dench is the calm matriarch of the school but is no one’s puppet. As the other teacher at the school, who has a stern demeanor, Carla Juri does her part well with just the right amount of intrigue. 

What makes this film alive and different from other spy-in-a-school films is the haunting music by composer Marc Streitenfeld and wonderful cinematography by Chris Seager. This is the late 1930’s, and the audience knows what will happen in years to come.  But, at this moment, it is trying to keep what is going on in Europe from getting to Great Britain. The clock is indeed, ticking. 


Copyright 2021 Marie Asner