Written by: Adam Vaughn | March 25th, 2021
Six Minutes to Midnight (Andy Goddard, 2020) 2½ out of 4 stars.
A lot can be said about the empowering role women play in Six Minutes to Midnight, Andy Goddard’s WWII drama, where much of the detail highlights the true events of a German school for girls in 1939 Great Britain. Certainly, the charm of Eddie Izzard (The Flip Side), as Professor Thomas Miller, balanced with the driving force of Judi Dench (Victoria & Abdul), creates a terrific dynamic from the start and truly sets the film in motion. While I enjoyed the solid structure of the film from start to finish, I never really felt anything that makes Six Minutes to Midnight rise above and beyond the usual drama set during WWII.
Six Minutes to Midnight tells the story of Miller as he first is hired to teach English at Augusta-Victoria College, Bexhill-on-Sea, a boarding school which houses an “elite” member of Nazi-party German girls. As the girls train to become the best representation of the Nazi party, a dark secret looms over the school: the former professor in Miller’s place has been murdered, and Miller, under supervision by British intelligence, is determined to find the culprit behind it. But things soon take a sinister turn as the heads of the boarding school strive to protect its reputation and those of the girls in attendance.
One thing I felt throughout the film is a steady sense of tension and mystery. Various scenes create an atmosphere of uneasiness, which keeps the story engaging as we discover the murderers. This does, however, compete with the sequences that establish the schoolgirls’ characters, particularly since both are engaging elements of the script. Naturally, the symbol of Nazi culture plays a significant role in that tension, as the motif alone comes with heavy emotional baggage.
While the WWII era tends to be a hard period to put a fresh new spin on, nowadays, Six Minutes to Midnight certainly finds interesting concepts to interest the viewer. The subtle tone of female strength and poise is endearing, yet we never truly get to know many of the girls, themselves. Once in a while, characters such as Gretel (Tijan Marei) and Ilse (Carla Juri) make for decent powerhouse performances, but the film mostly sticks to its spy-mystery roots, seldom exploring other topics and themes.
All this said, the overall story arc tends to hit a lot of cliché and pointless notes, creating a less-than-original feel, at times. Without affecting the quality of the work, many of the sequences feel uninspired, and the film would do better without them. Overall, though, Six Minutes to Midnight tells an interesting story, if maybe in the least intriguing way possible. For its countless odes to the WWII films before it, I very much appreciate the themes of xenophobia and deception mixed together. But in every other aspect, Six Minutes to Midnight has elements that have been done in more interesting ways before.