Period drama Downton Abbey is distributed by Focus Features, and is a sequel to the British television series of the same title. Set in 1927, King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) are going to be coming to stay at Downton Abbey. When the royal servants come to the house ahead of the royalty, they tell the shocked Downton staff to stay out of the way while they do all of the work. Mortified, the staff decide to fight for their right to serve in their own workplace. Meanwhile, Countess Crawley (Maggie Smith) is horrified to learn that Lady Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) – cousin of Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) – intends to leave her estate to her maid, Lucy (Tuppence Middleton). But is all as it appears?
- As with the television series, the production design and costume design departments undertake their work with tremendous attention to detail, giving the period setting a real sense of authenticity.
- A very handsomely framed film by cinematographer Ben Smithard, who values both the grand scale and small detail in equal measure, as shown when you juxtapose his close-up shots of silverware with magnificent landscape shots which frame Downton Abbey within the sprawling countryside.
- A solid cast, the real stand-outs from the returnees being Jim Carter, Hugh Bonneville and the national treasure that is Maggie Smith, while Imelda Staunton and Tuppence Middleton make good additions.
- A somewhat bare bones premise, with screenwriter Julian Fellowes and director Michael Engler relying a little too heavily on nostalgia for the television series to engage audiences, rather than deliver a compelling narrative.
- This film would work better as a new six-part series quite frankly, as there are many subplots, including assassination attempts, family secrets, a love triangle, Lady Talbot (Michelle Dockery) questioning her future, and Barrow’s (Robert James-Collier) love life. This would not be so bad were it not for the fact that none of these subplots really go anywhere or add much to the final product.
- While the cast are good, to have such a large ensemble does inevitably mean that a number of the returning cast members are left feeling somewhat short-changed.