Rich Pickings on Mr Jones
With masterful direction by Agnieszka Holland and a brilliant script by Andrea Chalupa this historical biopic is a very fine work of art. It features a bravado performance by James Norton as Gareth Jones, a Welsh wannabe journalist who seeks to find out the truth about Stalin’s Soviet Union.
As Jones’ sometime boss Kenneth Cranham puts in a convincing act as PM Lloyd George who is being duped by his advisers. While Joseph Mawle is seen as George Orwell writing Animal Farm, a satire on Stalinism with its own Mr Jones too.
Once in Moscow he is taken under the wing of Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard), the Pulitzer prize-winning journo known as New York Times’ ‘man in Moscow’. His is a world of decadence and depravity which the movie shows with verve and veracity.
But rather than Duranty’s junkie whores Jones’ love interest is Ada Brooks (Vanessa Kirby), a reporter in Moscow. She has witnessed first-hand the oppression of the Soviet state with the government’s murder of lover and fellow writer Paul Kleb.
Some of the most powerful scenes of the film are when Jones visits Ukraine, having shaken off his Communist Party companion. In the snow-covered barren landscapes there are millions starving or already dead and the film treats this in an unflinching manner.
What makes Holland’s work even more incredible is that this is largely a true life story but no spoilers here as to Jones’ fate having filed his anti-Stalinist report. A magnificent piece of period drama that carries a powerful message: to tell the truth as a journalist comes before any other considerations and whatever the consequences.
Reviewed by Rich Jevons. Playing at Pictureville, Bradford from 17 to 19 February.