Ben Oliver

Now
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film

The Duke

I’d just finished reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness and I felt a need to explore Sunderland.
09 July 2023

The story of Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent), a 60 year-old man from Newcastle who stole Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London.

You’ve seen this charming British working-class-hero comedy a thousand times before on many a wet Saturday afternoon, and The Duke is another perfectly good addition to the genre despite not bringing many new ideas to the table.

It does have Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren, who wrestle a bit with the Geordie accents but give great performances.

The screenplay falters a little in the first third but manages to really connect the audience with its characters as it progresses, leading to a good emotional pay-off at the end.

In fact it’s so aggressively character driven that the actual theft of the painting is almost glossed over. It’s a seemingly strange choice but the decision to round out the characters and give them more of a back story lends some real stakes to the final courtroom sequences.

Definitely one to watch with the parents over tea and cake.