The Duke Review

A Heart-warming British Heist Movie

By Liselotte Vanophem

If you think of a thrilling heist film, then you probably think of a movie filled with guns, fast cars chases and explosions. However, what if a heist movie would be made differently but stays as intriguing and thrilling as ever?

Then you get “The Duke”, the latest film by Roger Michell. Yes, the director that brought you joyous movies such as “Notting Hill” and “Morning Glory” is now taking on a real-life story of a painting robbery, and you know what? “The Duke” turns out to be an incredibly heart-warming, fun and beautiful must-see movie.

Michell and his A-list cast take you to Newcastle in the ’60s. Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent), his wife Dorothy (Helen Mirren) and their son Jackie (Fionn Whitehead) live in their traditional family home, and despite having little money, they still have each other. Dorothy works extremely hard as a maid, while Kempton makes just a few bucks as a taxi driver.

Life’s about to become even harder when Kempton is fired at work and sued for not paying his tv license. Because of that latter reason, he feels betrayed by the Government. According to him, OAPs and war veterans should be allowed free TV licences as television is the best cure for loneliness.

To get his revenge in the best way possible, Kempton steals Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. The British Government purchased that painting for £140,000, so Bunton knows that the Government will undoubtedly pay a ransom if they can’t find who did it.

He could use the money to pay television licences for pensioners, older people and war veterans. Will Kempton gets that money, or will he be caught and go to trial? Well, that’s for you to find out!

The story might sound fictional, but nothing could be further from the truth. The art theft and the aftermath ruled the news in the early ’60s and the painting also briefly appeared in “Dr No.”. Now, it’s being brought to the forefront, and it’s done in an excellent and feel-good way!

The Duke of Wellington gets competition in this movie from acting royalty in the form of Mirren and Broadbent. They both made classic movies such as “The Queen”, “Hitchcock”, “Iris” and “The Iron Lady”, and now, they’re doing it together, resulting in fireworks. Mirren (“ Trumbo”, “ Anna “) is utterly impressive, believable and human as the loving, hardworking, headstrong and naïve wife/mother/cleaner. We certainly also have to congratulate the hair and make-up team for giving her the timeless and extremely fitting look.

You might not recognise Mirren at first, but you recognise her top-notch acting talent when she says her first line. Another astounding performance comes from Broadbent (“ Paddington “, “Longford”). He brings so much humour, funny moments, strong emotions and cheekiness to the movie and absolutely nails that Geordie accent. He certainly puts a smile on your face. Together with Mirren, he’s the beating heart of this movie.

The power couple gets excellent support from a stunning British cast. Whitehead (“ Dunkirk “, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”) gives us an impressive performance as the young rebellious son who’s not afraid to fight for what he believes in, whether it’s upset his parents or not.

There’s a beautiful and undeniable chemistry between him and Broadbent. While Matthew Goode (“ Silent Night”, “ The Colour Room “) only makes his first appearance in the last part of the movie, he brings a lot of charm, class and humour to the screen as the defence barrister Jeremy Hutchinson.

What makes this movie even more joyous and light-hearted is the beautiful cinematography. While there’s nothing spectacular or brand-new cinematography wise, Mike Eley (“My Cousin Rachel”, “Off The Rails”) certainly knows how to create the perfect vibe. The light, bright, welcoming and typical British atmosphere is present from the beginning and will captivate you throughout the entire movie.

While “The Duke” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, therefore it might be a bit too predictable or cheesy; it’s an indie gem. The performances are incredibly genuine and believable, the cinematography very absorbing and appealing, and the story is one you probably never heard of. What more do you want?

Originally published at



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