STARRING: Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Raquel Cassidy, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Kevin Doyle, Michael Fox, Joanne Froggatt, Matthew Goode, Harry Hadden-Paton, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Lesley Nicol, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton, Tuppence Middleton, David Haig, Geraldine James and Simon Jones
The continuing story of the Crawley family, wealthy owners of a large estate in the English countryside in the early 20th century.
The Earl of Grantham, Robert Crawley, receives a letter from Buckingham Palace stating the King and Queen of England will be paying a visit to Downton Abbey as part of their royal tour through the country.
Downton Abbey is a film that serves as a continuation of the much beloved television series of the same name that’s been around since 2010. Set two years after the events of the series finale, we return to Downton Abbey where Robert Crawler, Earl of Grantham, receives a letter from Buckingham Palace stating that King George and Queen Mary will be attending Downton Abbey as part of their royal tour. The Crawley’s and the downstairs staff are excited about the visit, that is until members of the royal household arrive and completely takeover the Downton household.
I would like to point out that I’ve never seen the television series before, a few minutes here and there, but nothing to entice me to check it out as a drama focusing on a aristocratic family and their servants just doesn’t interest me in the slightest. But the ITV drama series has proven to have a big enough following here and across the West to be given a green light to be adapted for the big screen and here we are. One of the strengths of the film is its attention to detail when it comes to the costume designs from Anna Mary Scott, to the use of lighting in the mansion, how John Lunn’s score blends the scene transitions together and Michael Engler’s direction is solid throughout. Some of the dialogue is really tight here as well thanks to Julian Fellowes script and even though it’s on the big screen, it doesn’t go overboard with big ideas, sequences because of its new frame. There’s a large ensemble here, though a few of the cast get their separate moments to shine. Allen Leech as the republican-turned-estate manager, gets arguably the most out of the ensemble in terms of meatier roles and I thoroughly enjoyed his performance as Tom Branson, while David Haig steals the scenes he’s in as Mr. Wilson, who will aggressively point out that he’s not a ‘Butler’ but the ‘King’s Page of the Backstairs’. Maggie Smith will always chew the scenery up in anything she’s in, particularly here as Violet Crawley, and her scenes with Imelda Staunton’s Maud and Penelope Wilton’s Isobel are great to watch. While the royal visit is the main story, there’s a lot of sub-plots going on, there’s espionage, a caper, a progressive story focusing on homosexuality, basically it’s like a series worth of material put into a two-hour runtime.
While the film has many sub-plots, some of it feels like it’s stretched out to make the film more engaging than what it really is, particular the whole caper story. The film itself in parts feels thin (while it’s been the main selling point in the trailers/promotions for the film, the royals themselves feel somewhat underdeveloped) and due to the size of the cast, some appear pushed to the sidelines, in particular the one I believe had a much larger role in the series throughout, Hugh Bonneville. However, can you come into this film without watching the series? Mostly I’d say you can, though there’s a few characters and plots from the series briefly mentioned here that could make someone check out the series to learn more what happened.
Downton Abbey looks beautiful, sounds beautiful and from a technical standpoint in filmmaking I can’t find a fault with it. The cast are likeable, charming and the film itself is harmless. However, it doesn’t feel like it was necessary to have this story told on the big screen rather than as a small miniseries, as some of the sub-plots feel rushed or underdeveloped and some of the characters feel sidelined because of it. Still, as someone whose never seen the series before I found it to be an alright time at the cinema, so I guess fans will love it.