Movie Review: ‘Downton Abbey – The Movie’

Director: Michael Engler

Cast: Do I have to really type them all out? There’s so many of them. Look, Maggie Smith is in it. That’s all people have been asking me.

Plot: The residents and staff of country estate Downton Abbey are thrown into turmoil when it is announced that King George V and Queen Mary will be staying overnight.

Review: From the outset we should note that this is my first experience with Downton Abbey. Although I’ve meant to get around to watching it, but it seems like a big time commitment. When the invitations for the movie premiere came around it was too late to play catch up, so today we’re going to provide the outsider experience.

With such a big cast of characters, established settings and complex backstories and relationships I expected that it would be difficult to break into the world. It’s due to the skill of the scriptwriters and director that this wasn’t the case. Having been versed in the household structure from Gosford Park, it didn’t take long to get a sense of who was who and what the key relationships were. It may be tiresome for those who have followed the show to have this basic information peppered throughout the first act, but it does allow newcomers the opportunity to be involved in the story.

When the King and Queen announce their intentions to stay overnight at Downton Abbey, both the upstairs and downstairs of the household find their respective boats being rocked. Dowager Countess Grantham Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) expects her cousin and long-time rival to be among the royal staff and prepares for a battle and Tom Branson (Allen Leech) has come under scrutiny as an Irish Republican. The household staff, meanwhile, are unhappy to learn that they’ll be stood down to make way for the Royal staff and plot to regain their honour.

I certainly can’t tell you the name of all the characters but I was able to follow the multiple running storylines, only a few of which we’ve touched on. The conflict taking place among the servants was the most fun, as it’s better suited to bottleneck episode nature of the film. What we found most surprising about is how witty the script is. We rarely felt as though we were an outsider looking in.

There really isn’t anything I can say that hasn’t already been said about Downton Abbey. I am super late to this party. If there’s one issue we take, it’s some strange cinematography choices that crop us from time to time. There’s a couple of instances where the one character not speaking in a scene is who the camera is focused on. This could be a good way to show a character’s reaction to the situation, but they don’t really react.

Most fans will be curious as to how this movie fares alongside the show, but I cannot answer that. What it did do was motivate me to watch the show, which I am literally doing right now. Maybe I’ll review this again once I caught up.

Rating: EIGHT out of TEN