Film Review by: #BrianPenn
The transition from TV to big screen is rarely a smooth journey; especially when a show moves beyond its customary one hour time slot. The reverse is usually a less painful process, but with huge budgets routinely committed to TV projects the gap is slowly closing.
Downton Abbey, give or take a dubious sub-plot manages reasonably well on film.
The action picks up in 1927 as the Granthams excitedly prepare for the visit of King George V and Queen Mary.
All the principal characters feature in a series of mingling sub-plots. The Granthams (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) assume their customary role as family moderators. Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) continues to agonise over Downton's future in a changing world; sister Edith (Laura Carmichael) dreads intrusion to her newly found domestic bliss. The Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) steels herself for a meeting with Lady Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), her cousin and lady-in-waiting to the Queen; a storm is brewing between the pair regarding the Bagshaw estate.
Meanwhile, Branson (Allen Leech) wrestles with his republican ideals and war has broken out below stairs. The royal household lands on Downton led by the posturing King's Butler (David Haig). The faithful servants are apparently usurped as the faithful Carson (Jim Carter) is called in to restore order.
The film logically assumes an existing knowledge of characters and contingent storylines; so doesn't really work as a standalone piece. Nevertheless, fans of the show will enjoy catching up with characters they have come to know well. There are some annoying, superficial sub-plots that aren't worthy of cinematic treatment; while others tantalisingly leave the door ajar for future instalment. Highclere Castle looks majestic on the big screen with some breath taking panoramic shots. The cast are uniformly excellent with Maggie Smith inevitably stealing the best lines. Simon Jones and Geraldine James are well cast as the King and Queen, although have very little to do aside from looking regal. Writer Julian Fellowes has played safe with a simple extension of the TV series. Apart from a brief reference to the General Strike he steered clear of a socially turbulent era; perhaps surprising when being 'in service' was on the wane by the late 1920s. Overall, there's enough here to keep the fans happy although much of it will be lost on a Downton Abbey novice.
Watch the Downton Abbey movie trailer below.