REVIEW: Downton Abbey the movie is great entertainment with a scene-stealing performance from Dame Maggie Smith

PUBLISHED: 10:03 07 October 2019

Laura Carmichael and Dame Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey the movie

Laura Carmichael and Dame Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey the movie


Asked by the king if she was effected by the general strike, The Countess of Grantham replies: “My maid was rather curt with me. She’s a communist at heart.”

This big screen outing for the hugely popular TV series reunites the show's original cast and continues the story of the wealthy Crawley family, owners of the large Downton Abbey estate in the English countryside.

The much loved show, which ran for six seasons between 2010 and 2015, opened in 1912 with the sinking of the Titanic. Now we have reached 1927.

The series and the film both star Hugh Bonneville as family patriarch Lord Grantham and Dame Maggie Smith as his mother Violet, the Countess of Grantham. Both reprise those roles here, as do fellow Crawley family members Michelle Dockery, Allen Leech and Laura Carmichael.

Below stairs in the servants' quarters, Joanne Froggatt returns as housemaid Anna Bates and Jim Carter reprises his role as head butler Mr Carson.

The story centres on a royal visit to the abbey which causes much excitement in the household and surrounding village.

However, when it comes to light that the king and queen will be arriving with their own staff, there is uproar among the loyal servants of Downton.

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Among the visitors are cast newcomers Imelda Staunton and Tuppence Middleton whose arrival and mysterious relationship also causes a stir.

Script writer and Downton creator Julian Fellowes doesn't stray too far from the formula that made the show a success, which will please longtime fans.

The plot doesn't seek to ruffle too many feathers and skirts quickly and rather amusingly around the more serious political issues of the era. For instance, when asked by the king if she was effected by the general strike, Violet replies "My maid was rather curt with me. She's a communist at heart."

Two time Oscar winner Smith has many of the film's best lines, she is full of indignation at the news that her cousin Maud Bagshaw (Staunton) is planning to name an heir outside the family and delivers a swathe of withering put downs.

With the exception of Hugh Bonneville's Lord Grantham, who is slightly underserved, all the main cast are given their moment to shine, and it is testament to Fellowes that he manages to juggle such a huge ensemble cast and weave the numerous plot threads together into a coherent narrative.

Downton's longstanding fans will ultimately be the ones who get the most out of this big screen version, however director Michael Engler also ensures it's surprisingly accessible for viewers unfamiliar with the show.

Sticking steadfastly to its original blue print, Downton Abbey the movie is good wholesome entertainment, featuring a scene stealing performance from one of Britain's most distinguished actresses, Dame Maggie Smith.

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