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“MR. JONES” Historical and Disturbing




Review by John Delia

Very enlightening and interesting, the movie Mr. Jones brings you back to sometime before the Germans invaded Russia taking them into WWII. The film gets deeply into Russian problems of feeding their country since the Communist run Parliament took over. It also involves Stalin’s draining the Ukraine of all their grain in order to feed the Russian people. It’s about the worst of time and the even darker times of being a vulnerable nation on the brink of war.

(Right) James Norton as Gareth Jones in the drama / bio-pic / thriller MR. JONES, a Samuel Goldwyn Films release. Photo courtesy of Robert Palka.

The main character Gareth Jones (James Norton), a reporter for a British news media, had just interviewed Hitler and we find him in Britain reporting about it to the newsroom staff. Later he gets a call from his friend and fellow reporter Paul Kleb (Marcin Czarnik) who is a member of the foreign press living in Moscow, Russia. He tells Jones that to get an interview with Premier of Russia Joseph Stalin, he must contact a publication like the New York Times to get a visa. He ends the call saying he has a huge story lined up for him when he gets to Moscow.

Shortly thereafter, Gareth gets notice of a cutback and is let go by his publication. Determined to follow through on getting the interview with Joseph Stalin he applies for a visa at the Russian Embassy in Britain. After some pleading, he gets a one week visa to Russia solely as a free-lance reporter. When he checks in at his Moscow hotel they tell him he has been granted only a 2 day stay. Later that day he finds out that Paul Kleb was killed by a robber.

Vanessa Kirby as Ada Brooks in the drama / bio-pic / thriller MR. JONES, a Samuel Goldwyn Films release. Photo courtesy of Robert Palka.

With things uncertain, Gareth gets wind that something is going down in the Ukraine that may give him the biggest story he could ever hope for. Director Agnieszka Holland opens the window to the Holodomor showing the atrocity of using the Soviet Ukraine people to gather all the grain from their country and ship it to Moscow and other parts of Russia. The Russian government is beefing up to look like the country is affluent and thriving in the eyes of foreign governments. They want to especially impress Hitler who is knocking on their door and the United States who is very influential involving pre-WWII defenses.

Agnieszka moves his film along at a fast clip setting up the story line as per above before diving into the wheat, meat and potatoes revealing the starvation of their satellite country. The trek by Gareth Jones shows the deterioration of the country, the loss of lives being carted away to graves, children begging for food and some of them even resorting to cannibalism. It’s a very telling and heartbreaking segment of the movie and the cameras depicts a lot more than the initial statement that was probably intended by the filmmakers given the world with communism/socialism increasing as it is today. Driving home the despotic genocide by Stalin’s regime, the movie opens wounds that the Russians thought they had probably healed.

James Norton as Gareth Jones in the drama / bio-pic / thriller MR. JONES, a Samuel Goldwyn Films release. Photo courtesy of Robert Palka.

The acting in the film is terrific with a strong leading performance by James Norton as Gareth Jones. It’s also supported very well by both Peter Sarsgaard as Walter Duranty who purposely kept Jones’ Ukraine story out of The New York Times and Vanessa Kirby as Jones’ love interest and confidant Ada Brooks. Combined they bring the cold world of Russia up close depicting the main players that were responsible for an incredible story that finally ended up on the screen.

Mr. Jones has not been rated by the MPAA, but contains language, brief nudity, sexuality, drug use, violence, and disturbing images.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A good film for those who like a good drama and historical notes. (4 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Peter Sarsgaard, James Norton, and Vanessa Kirby, Kenneth Cranham, Joseph Mawle, Celyn Jones, Krzysztof Pieczyński
Directed by: Agnieszka Holland
Genre: bio-pic, drama, thriller
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 2 hrs. 21 min.
Opening Date: April 3, 2020
Distributed by: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Released in: VOD

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