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60. Mr Jones; movie review

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Title : 60. Mr Jones; movie review
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Cert 15
119 mins
BBFC advice: Contains distressing scenes, brief drug misuse, nudity

Among the many hats I wear, one is that of advisor to a backbench MP who has campaigned for recognition of the Holodomor.
I admit that, up until a couple of years ago, I knew little about Stalin's genocide in Ukraine in the 1930s.
Yet at Christmas, I alerted the press to my client earning an award from the President of Ukraine for her work in highlighting the human catastrophe.
It staggers me to have learned that more starved to death than Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
My client watched a special parliamentary screening of Mr Jones, recommended it and I can see why.
It tells the story of Gareth Jones (James Norton), a young journalist who had gained fame following an exclusive interview with Adolf Hitler.
He then became an enthusiastic advisor to David Lloyd George and was fascinated with how the Soviet Union seemed to be bucking the economic crisis of the 1930s.
Consequently, he engineers himself a trip to Moscow where he find the press cocooned in a city in which it is deemed better for one's health not to ask too many deep questions.
This is an anathema to Jones who probes until he finds that a murdered journalist was investigating Ukraine.
Jones manages to sidestep the authorities to see for himself what is happening and discovers horror after horror.
Unfortunately, director Agnieszka Holland has embellished his involvement, causing consternation for his descendants.
However, they do agree that bringing the subject of the Holodomor to the masses is important and the film achieves that.
Norton is impressive in the title role, reflecting a man who is determined in his convictions but stunned over what was being done by countryman to fellow countryman.
Peter Sarsgaard plays Walter Duranty, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Moscow office chief for the New York Times who publicly denies that people are being deliberately starved to death and Vanessa Kirby as his underling who has greater empathy for Jones's commitment to finding the truth.
It is an impressive ensemble who deliver fine performances but Mr Jones, despite adding scenes for dramatic effect, doesn't grab quite as much as it should.
And then it struck me - there is an absolute necessity to understand the Holodomor before watching it and, secondly, while the story about Jones is poignant, it would be more hard-hitting if there were greater concentration on what happens in Ukraine rather than on him.
Instead, Holland presents a mainly fact, part-fiction account of Jones's laudable attempt to bring the genocide in Ukraine to public attention.
Nearly 90 years on, his baton is still being carried and justice is still being sought.

Reasons to watch: The story of a true hero
Reasons to avoid: Presumes knowledge

Laughs: None
Jumps: None
Vomit: Yes
Nudity: Yes
Overall rating: 7.5/10

Did you know? Between 1931 and 1934 at least 5 million people perished of hunger all across the U.S.S.R. Among them, according to a study conducted by a team of Ukrainian demographers, were at least 3.9 million Ukrainians. Police archives contain multiple descriptions of instances of cannibalism as well as lawlessness, theft, and lynching. Mass graves were dug across the countryside. 

The final word. Agnieszka Holland: "We wanted to describe the whole mechanism of Jones entering consecutive circles of hell, confronting brutal reality with his idealism, youthfulness and courage, in an evocative way, yet simply and straightforwardly. No journalistic and informative obviousness, no sentimental blackmail and explicit happy ending. Nobody wanted to listen to the truth about Stalin’s atrocities which Jones exposed."

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