Friday, July 10, 2020

Mr. Jones: Movie Review

A poetic and supremely told story in the pursuit of truth.
London, 1933: Mr. Jones, a young accomplished Welsh journalist has the attention of some of the most powerful men in British politics. He just had the opportunity to interview Hitler and Goebbels and believes an intention to invade Poland. The old, white men laughed. One of them said, “Hitler will soon realize the difference between holding a rally and running a country.” They’re not taking this seriously. It’s even more chilling watching this in 2020, in the middle of a pandemic and an American president who would rather hold rallies than run a country. 2019

Directed by: Agnieszka Holland

Screenplay by: Andrea Chalupa

Starring: James Norton, Peter Sarsgaard

Gareth Jones then gets a telephone call from Moscow. That’s all he knows because when he gets to the phone, the line went dead. But know he knows where his next story is. Listening to tapes of Josef Stalin, hearing the stories of wealth and technological advancement, either the Soviet Union has become the world’s next super-power, or they’re lying. Mr. Jones is off to Russia; he has a visa to stay at the famed Metropol and the pedigree to talk to the people who can get him an interview with Stalin.

The production quality is top-notch. The recreation of the 1930s: the streets, the clothes, the buildings - all realistic and lends an erudite atmosphere, aided by intelligent characters – some on a mission to unveil the truth, others wanting to keep the truth (and the wealth and privilege that comes with it) to themselves. It also can’t be understated how refreshing it is to watch a character that is smart enough to make informed decisions and then take the best possible course of action. The film makes it so easy to want to watch Mr. Jones that even when the story slowly stumbles along, you know you’re in good hands.

The film also makes incredible work of juxtapositions. His first night in the Soviet Union, and the Russian dignitaries invite him to a party. He thinks he should have a quiet night in and then get to work on meeting Stalin the next day, but he also knows that some people at this party have his back, a lot of people at this party will have the knowledge he needs, and so for a night he’s thrust into this world of glamour, drugs and sex. Everybody there is either on drugs or naked, or both. Gareth is too smart and determined to indulge. The party is also shot as if the cameraman’s on drugs, a disorienting image of money and excess.

However, Gareth is soon on his way to breaking the story he came for. He meets one of Stalin’s right-hand men who has promised to take him to factories and warehouses in Ukraine that are going to confirm how rich and technologically-advanced the country is. Gareth is too smart for that. The cold, barren winter of the Ukraine countryside laid-bared truths that he was not expecting, but as always, our protagonist was prepared.

The story is littered with famous people whose names have withstood the test of time (most for infamous reasons) even though the hero is the one person most of us will not have heard of. Ultimately, Mr. Jones is a well-made film with a powerful story about a real person who deserves our attention.