Or, how I got Matt Drescher to shut up
Personal note to explain the subheader. If I still lived in San Francisco, I would have to inflict myself on Matthew Drescher, whether he liked it or not. This is not an indictment of the charming fellow. Sorry I missed him while I was living there. He's a blast. And a HUGE fan of Mr. Jones. Because of Matthew, there is the fab review to follow.
Mr. Jones (The official title) is the true story of Gareth Jones (James Norton), an attache to the English foreign minister, David Lloyd George, but that's not driving Gareth. He wants more. He snookers the government to send him to Moscow. His charter?
To investigate the Soviet Union's collectivist "Miracle," as Pulitzer Prize Winning, Walter Duranty has reported to The New York Times over the past couple years.
Jones arrives and is immediately tailed by the Soviets. His hotel reservation is truncated from a week to two days. There's an obvious effort to get him out of Moscow.
Duranty (great performance by Peter Sarsgaard) is shown, warts and all. A debauched has-been (never was?), and a tool of the Politboro. He cavorts around the Metropol Hotel; hosts parties with lots of male and female consorts; and ignores the ongoing famine in Ukraine and SouthWest Russia.
Jones, the Sir Galahad of the movie, weasels an invitation out of the USSR foreign office to travel to Ukraine. He does, and is treated to a horror show of dead bodies piling up in the streets; devastated farms; and starvation on an epic scale.
Jones is documenting the failure of the "miracle," but before he can finish, is snatched by the secret police and returned to Moscow.
Jones finds himself threatened by a member of the Politboro with the execution of six captured British citizens, unless he returns to London and tells the "truth."
He accepts the terms . . .
Enough plot. Allow me to gush.
Mr. Jones might be the most beautifully photographed movie since The Godfather. Every frame is a painting of film noir contrast, light, and dark.
Norton, Sarsgaard, and Vanessa Kirby (Ada Parks, a reporter in the thrall of Duranty) bring a transcendent quality to their performances. Kirby, who plays the luscious Princess Margaret in two seasons of The Crown, is a strong and fragile presence. Ada's love for Jones overwhelms her in one scene. It will move you as few other displays of emotion in cinema have. Sarsgaard is all things Duranty. Duplicitous. Feckless. Weak. Cowardly. Entitled. A complete lack of character in every movement and word.
But this Norton's movie.
Jones' strength of character, decency, and resolve show from the first frame. Dauntless. Tough. Resilient. The scene where he slips one of his Soviet "handlers" is a testament to the intuitive Gareth Jones. He knows if he does not get to Ukraine on his own, he will be shown NOTHING of consequence.
Norton insinuates himself into the role and embraces Jones' emotional and spiritual power. He has a spine of steel and a ribcage of bedrock.
And let me praise the filmmakers. They pull no punches on the Communist Sympathizer, Duranty, even making note at the end The New York Times / USSR schill has never had his Pulitzer revoked. Every few years noise is made it should be despite Duranty being room temperature since 1957.
HULU. And worth every minute of its two hours.