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Review: Eddie Izzard stars in the perfunctory spy thriller ‘Six Minutes to Midnight’

Eddie Izzard, alongside Judi Dench, drives a car.
Eddie Izzard and Judi Dench in “Six Minutes to Midnight.”
(Amanda Searle / IFC Films)

The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.

The historical thriller “Six Minutes to Midnight” was inspired by a real-life place but, unfortunately, not real-life events. The result is a largely ho-hum, what-if scenario involving spies, Nazis, schoolgirls, politics and treachery that creaks instead of unfolds.

The film takes place in southeast England’s scenic Bexhill-on-Sea, the hometown of star Eddie Izzard, whose fascination with a longstanding local finishing school led her to co-write (with director Andy Goddard and co-star Celyn Jones) this old-fashioned thriller set in 1939 on the cusp of World War II.

The gender-fluid Izzard, a singularly talented and versatile performer, in this role is indistinct. He plays Thomas Miller, a British intelligence agent who goes undercover at the Augusta-Victoria College for Girls to teach English to the daughters and goddaughters of Nazi high command. (The school did, in fact, serve these young German visitors in the 1930s.)

But Miller is soon wanted in the mysterious death of the teacher (Nigel Lindsay) he replaced, and trouble ensues. Meanwhile, Miller is on an urgent mission: to thwart a Nazi conspiracy to return the “Sieg Heil!”-saluting students to Germany and, in doing so, protect a British plot to use the girls as political pawns against the country’s looming enemy.

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It’s a potentially intriguing bit of fiction that plays out in, at best, serviceable ways. As well shot (in Wales) and well mounted as the film may be, there’s a perfunctory feel to its chases, shootouts, close calls and shadowy behaviors, as well as to the often transparent dialogue.

We also never learn enough about the characters to invest in their do-or-die motives and actions. Miller’s few personal reveals, including that his wife died of the Spanish flu, may not even be true; he’s hardly what you’d call a forthcoming sort. Much is also left underexplained about the school’s devoted governess, Miss Rocholl (Judi Dench, fine as always), and her right-hand teacher, the sinister Ilse (Carla Juri). The students, save the domineering Astrid (Maria Dragus) and the fraught Gretel (Tijan Marei), get short shrift as well.

Jim Broadbent as a helpful bus driver, James D’Arcy as an arrogant police captain and Celyn Jones as his ill-fated partner round out the cast of this passable time-passer. As for the title, it’s code for a key government phone number: Whitehall 1154. You do the math.

'Six Minutes to Midnight'

In English and German with English subtitles

Rated: PG-13, for some violence

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Playing: Starts March 26, Harkins Theatres Chino Hills 18; also on VOD


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