Six Minutes to Midnight
Six Minutes to Midnight is inspired by a strange and little-known footnote in the well-covered Anglo-Germanic relations during the rise of Nazism. The Augusta-Victoria College for Girls was a private finishing school on Bexhill-on-Sea, where high ranking Nazi officials sent their daughters to learn English and be primed for ambassadorship for the Nazis between 1932 and 1939.
These bizarre, true events are the backdrop for a fictitious espionage thriller, with Eddie Izzard as an intelligence agent sent to the school after the previous English teacher (and intelligence agent) gets jumpy he’ll be found out and mysteriously disappears. Thomas Miller (Izzard), a “journeyman teacher”, arrives at the school to take his place. An initially frosty reception from the formidably proper headmistress (played by Judi Dench) soon thaws as Miller proves himself handy on the piano for the deportment exercises so integral to finishing schools.
This is a passion project for Izzard: he also co-wrote it along with director Andy Goddard and co-star Celyn Jones. There is a strong cast of British stalwarts; in addition to Dench, Jim Broadbent plays a cheery bus driver and James D’Arcy a sinister legal authority. Carla Juri plays Ilse Keller, the inscrutable German physical education teacher, leading the girls in calisthenics like something from a Leni Reifenstahl propaganda film.
While the true story element may be notable for its strangeness, the film doesn’t have the dramatic tension to sustain the one-hour-and-40-minute running time. Unfortunately, it feels mostly tedious and clichéd. Izzard is a much-loved comedian, but his serious acting here falls flat – he just doesn’t feel all that believable as a spy. Though the production has most of the elements of a rousing British period drama – venerable actors, an intriguing and never-before-told historical backdrop and beautiful scenery – sadly it doesn’t come together.
Six Minutes to Midnight is beautifully shot and the denouement picks up the pace to provide striking and innovative imagery and some dramatic tension, but it then devolves into mawkish sentimentality with a sickly and unnecessary rendition of It’s a Long Way to Tipperary. One can’t help but feel there was another film with a lot more complexity that could have been made about this topic.
Six Minutes to Midnight is released on Sky on 26th March 2021.
Watch the trailer for Six Minutes to Midnight here: