Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson star in this spy drama, based upon Melita Norwood, a London woman who at the age of 87 was exposed as the KGB’s last surviving British spy from the 1940s.
Should you bother to read other reviews of ‘Red Joan’, you will read about it being too slow, about it avoiding anything too political, anything vaguely interesting, or as the renowned (lol) political commentator Iain Dale put, ‘glamourising the betrayal of one’s country’.
All of this is rather harsh. Anyone expecting anything other than the retelling of a true story, based on an elderly woman being investigated for breaching the Official Secrets Act and, as a younger adult, being caught up in the emotional conundrums of it, will be sorely mistaken. Quite simply, there are no need for high action and chaos because there wasn’t any.
It takes an interesting look at the work of spies in the 1940s, the bit of the Cold War which isn’t promoted in spy thrillers and novels (although, they aren’t bad films and books). But what makes it really good is the way in which it focuses on one woman, Joan, who is only a small piece in the puzzle, but she has a big impact. It’s a refreshing take on an overdone genre which, although not particularly exciting (nor memorable), is a pleasant watch.
Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson are brilliant as the 2000 and 1940s depictions of Joan. I also enjoyed Tom Hughes’ portrayal of Leo Galich, Joan’s true love, however the character himself was unlikeable. Teresa Srbova was very amusing as Sonya, the girl who gets Joan involved in the spy ring.
This film would score a 10/10 for me in both the acting quality and the shooting; however there really didn’t seem to be a huge amount of point in turning the story into a film. Enjoyable, but I am definitely happy I didn’t pay to see it at the cinema, this film won’t live long in the memory, but is interesting for anyone (like myself) who is fascinated by every part of the Cold War.
Older Joan – Judi Dench
Young Joan – Sophie Cookson
Leo – Tom Hughes
Max – Stephen Campbell Moore
Sonya – Tereza Srbova
- Red Joan is now streaming on Netflix.