Some movies transcend their initial format and I think this is one of them. On the outside, The Duke is a heartwarming British comedy with an excellent cast and one hell of a story to tell. A surreal, crazy but nonetheless true story about a man who was determined to make a change. A man who was not afraid to stand up to racial injustices or ruthless laws. His name is Kempton Bunton and I salute you, good sir. We shall continue fighting the good fight in your stead. The story is taking place during the sixties showing us that much hasn’t changed since that time. One thing, in particular, blew my mind and that’s the ridiculous television licensing law. Jesus Zombie Christ, is this a sham or what?
And if you thought things are any different today, you just wait ’till the end credits. Fucking capitalism, fucking tribal society, and fucking stupid people. As you can notice, The Duke has got me pretty riled up and I hope it will rile you up too. However, do not think that this is some preachy drama about English social realism that’s going to bore the shit out of you. The Duke is a movie featuring fast pacing, a short running time (ninety minutes), and an excellent script. An excellent script delivered by a phenomenal cast led by none other than Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren! Young Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk) was also good along with dashing Matthew Goode (The Offer).
It is, however, Broadbent’s performance that anchors this movie and gives it a special feel. The man is a force of nature and I loved him in every movie I’ve seen him in. Oddly enough, I first met Mr. Jim Broadbent as DCI Roy Slater and he simply blew me away in that role. In this movie, the back-and-forth between him and Helen Mirren was just fascinating. Mirren plays his wife, Dorothy, a no-nonsense matriarch who’s trying to keep her family together. There are so many little jokes here that I’ll probably have to watch The Duke again in order to pick up on them.
The movie also features a bit of courtroom drama and one veritable sixties heist. And as a fan of heist movies, I simply could not pass it up. I also want to add that the movie was actually finished back in 2020. Of course, because of the pandemic, the premiere date was pushed several times, until the movie was finally released to the public in February 2022. Unfortunately, the director of the movie Roger Michell passed away before the premiere. At least the man gifted us with one hell of a movie.
We find Kempton Bunton, a sixty-year-old playwright in the middle of Old Baily, The Central Criminal Court of England. He stands accused of an unprecedented heist that happened some time ago. However, Kempton claims that he’s innocent in this matter. To fully understand why he thinks and says that, we will have to learn more about this fascinating man.
This case reminded me a bit of Michael Fagan’s case, also known as the man who broke into Buckingham Palace. Although that’s a much more depressing episode from the files of English working-class extravaganza. I have to admit that time flew with the movie The Duke. It’s a perfect choice for those nights when you want something that’s going to thoroughly capture your attention. The movie requires nothing of you. There will be no heavy lifting, no plot holes, or anything like that. Your job is just to relax and enjoy this wonderful journey to the past.
It’s much more enjoyable than our previous entry in this subgenre Bank of Dave. Just to be perfectly clear, that’s the genre of charming and lighthearted British comedies based on true events. And if you’re looking for even more similar movies do check out The Phantom of the Open and Operation Mincemeat. The Duke is a small movie with a big heart and an even bigger message. You are me and you are me!
Director: Roger Michell
Writers: Richard Bean, Clive Coleman
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren, Fionn Whitehead, Matthew Goode, Anna Maxwell Martin
Fun Facts: Roger Michell wanted so badly Jim Broadbent to star in this movie that he accepted no one else for the role. Moreover, he was willing not to make the movie at all, if Broadbent didn’t star.