The British historical drama which balances soap opera style plots with the intrigue of a bygone time was due a revisit and this movie does a very good of bringing the characters back to our screens. In bringing Downton Abbey back as a movie, this film manages to be as ambitious as it needs to be, as well as offering something the long-term fans will recognise and enjoy. It isn’t without its faults though.
From the outset, there is a comfortable familiarity with the Downton Abbey movie. The central characters all return and all fit comfortably back into their roles, be it Hugh Bonneville’s calm and authoritative Robert Crawley, Jim Carter’s statesmanlike butler Mr Carson or the series MVP, Maggie Smith as matriarch Violet Crawley. If you were a fan of the character in the original series, they return here and for the most part, have enough to justify everyone’s inclusion.
As with many series that then become movies, the plot needs to elevate above the usual TV show storylines and Downton Abbey is no different. The main focus of the movie is a Royal visit and Downton prepares for the visit from the King and Queen of the time (King George V and his wife Queen Mary). This manages to unfurl into a huge amount of sub-plots and in traditional Downton fashion, these plots are fairly dramatic and most border on the ridiculous. In fact, to its credit, there is so much going on in the movie that it never seems to pause and you will find yourself engaged from beginning to end.
It is a shame then that the movie does such a good job of setting up great plots, like potential assassination attempts, Royal thieves and terminally ill characters, but never really delivers on them. A lot of the resolutions feel rushed and anti-climactic, never getting the time or impact they deserve because the film is trying to fit so much in. What the Downton movie does show is that there is plenty of life left in the show and you could have arguably made another series and given these great plots more time to breathe and develop.
Consequently, because it is so full and so over-stuffed with stories and sub-plots and inconsequential moments, it never gets that huge movie moment. The Royal Family visiting Downton is a great hook for a movie but it isn’t made enough of and it means that the movie never feels much more than a great episode of the original tv show. It lacks that “special” feeling that a jump to the big screen would have hopefully delivered.
Overall, if you were a fan of the original Downton Abbey, this will not disappoint and if you are unfamiliar with the series, there is still plenty to enjoy. The movie has a great central hook and manages to weave a vast amount of sub-plots into the running time that you will never be bored. Unfortunately, some of these lack development, have anti-climactic resolutions and leave the jump to the big screen lacking that “special” movie touch.
Rating – 4
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