The 39 Steps (2008)
When you eavesdrop on a Twitter conversation between two of your friends, sometimes you come away with a new period drama recommendation. That was how seeing this played out for me. I happened to be reminded of this little mystery when said eavesdropping took place. What I came away with was a mostly good Saturday night’s 80-minutes worth of entertainment.
FILM REVIEW | The Lady Vanishes (2013)
London society no longer holds any kind of appeal for Richard Hannay (Rupert Penry-Jones). As, first a solider and now an engineer returned from Africa, he thrives on being in dangerous places and situations. This is perhaps why, a spy winding up in his flat doesn’t much faze him.
The spy reveals potentially crippling events that could be very bad for England, already on the cusp of a Second World War. All of this precedes the man's death, which happens right in Richard’s living room. His death sends Richard not just on the run from men who seem to be ruthlessly tracking him, but looking to clear his name as he stands accused of murder. Armed with a coded notebook he doesn’t know how to unravel, he walks straight into the path of Victoria Sinclair (Lydia Leonard). When Richard encounters Victoria and her brother (Patrick Kennedy, Bleak House), he is mistaken for someone else that temporarily offers him some breathing room.
Once his pursuers catch up to him, Richard is again on the run, only this time it’s with a feisty feminist activist in tow, Victoria. Between her mysterious uncle, Sir George Sinclair (David Haig) and the mysterious message the spy left in Richard’s hands, the pair have a cipher to unravel that may indeed be about national security.There are some stories that don’t exactly turn out as one expects. This falls among those. Yet it's still a rollicking good time. Since not everything can be among Foyle’s War caliber that is just what this little mystery is. Speaking to its flaws, it’s far too short to feel really fleshed out, but for a fun bit of a caper, this is just the thing. First, let’s talk about the cast. There’s Rupert Penry-Jones, which in and of itself is enough incentive simply because of his turn as Captain Wentworth. I’ve no notion how he does in comparison to book Wentworth however he is by far the best film Wentworth I’ve met. (Don’t even get me started on a certain gentleman from another adaption. *ahem* But that’s a discussion for another day. *wink*) The rest of the cast (with exception to Kennedy) is unknown to me or more so, though everyone seems appropriately cast.
Best I can tell and from the little I’ve learned, this is a re-make of a re-make... if that makes any sense. The original is a Hitchcock classic, then there is an oldie 1959 film, all titled the same. What this version lacks in screen time, it makes up for in many other ways. For example, I expected a more serious spy story and instead saw a humorous almost charming little British film that I’ll definitely wish to see again. The adventure Richard and Lydia go on is exciting in unique ways, and I adored their banter. Their on-screen chemistry is some of my most favorite, simply because it’s “sweet” without being terribly sappy.
Those who have seen BBC films like The Lady Vanishes will definitely wish to look into picking up a copy of The 39 Steps. It’s all about the classic British spy caper, which is all “fun and games,” and then throws a loop into the perfect scenario by upsetting the balance of an otherwise perfect setup while careening towards a darling ending. But then, this wouldn’t be a proper British drama if there weren’t some questionable twists. Ambiguous or not, be prepared to go on a fantastic adventure.
(Content: there is a bit of minor gun play – Richard is shot at by his pursuers, and a man is shot and killed. There's a scene during which an unmarried couple spent a night together though nothing improper happens. The film would likely be rated TVPG.)