In 1939 Welsh journalist Gareth Jones (James Norton) travels to Russia with ambitions to interview Stalin about his much-lauded five-year plan to save the country. However, upon arrival, he soon finds that all journalists have been confined to Moscow and the debauched world of private parties as hosted by Walter Duranty by way of a distraction.
Unconvinced either by Duranty or the wall of Russian red-tape designed to keep him in, Jones escapes his minder to journey deep into the heartland of Mother Russia. However, what waits for him in the fields beyond is a deep, dark, frozen truth that neither he nor the world will be able to readily accept.
...you might better know his story as the inspiration for one of the most potent, political parables of our time.
Like a slow-moving game of chess where the only tactic is to spoil your opponent’s moves, Agnieszka Holland’s latest movie is an essential thriller about a history not readily found in books. Set in pre-war Russia, where politeness is just a refusal in waiting, James Norton plays Mr Jones, an awkward interloper hoping not to be discovered. Bumping around the lions’ enclosure that is Moscow’s ex-pat sex parties, their organiser Walter Duranty (a lascivious Peter Sarsgaard) can smell trouble afoot. Yet, when Jones discovers that another journalist has been killed whilst chasing the same story, there is only one move left on the board to make:
Find out for yourself.
Shot with a sepia-like wash that infuses every frame, Mr Jones is a high-quality production. Surrounded by the stalwart talents of Kenneth Cranham as former prime minister Lloyd George and Vanessa Kirby as cautionary love interest Ada Brooks and there is much to enjoy in this high budget production. And whilst James Norton furrows a decent brow as the titular Mr Jones, it is Peter Sarsgaard’s reptilian Walter Duranty who steals every scene. Fully aware that Jones is determined to walk in a dead man’s shoes, Sarsgaard’s Duranty can’t help but lay a circular path before him.
Far more focussed on the much-maligned Child 44 and much less sensationalised than the recent Red Sparrow, this a story of a man who exposed both the dangers of propaganda and the complicity that enabled its spread.
In refusing himself to become a small cog in the big wheel of complicity, neither Mr Jones’s face nor name will appear on any banknotes or draw much attention intentionally relegated to the footnotes of history. However, you might better know his story as the inspiration for one of the most potent, political parables of our time.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
“Animals are equals. Yet some animals are more equal than others.”
Discover why in Agnieszka Holland’s Mr Jones now.