Agnieszka Holland (director)
07 February 2020 (released)
06 February 2020
Gareth Jones (James Norton) is a journalist of some repute having been the first foreign one to fly with Hitler. Also a government official Jones has friends in high places and on getting the whiff of a story about a possible state engineered famine in Russia, it’s an assignment that triggers all his investigative juices and principles.
However there are powerful forces and vested interests at play so Jones’ journey to and travels within the Ukraine are clandestine. What he finds, witnesses and records are horrors almost beyond belief as the population is systematically deprived of food, starved, left to their own devices and to survive at any cost. Jones himself is not immune to the deprivation, he’s robbed and beaten, eventually he’s discovered and deported.
With a story to tell he sets about getting it published only to be opposed, cautioned and threatened by government and the ‘free’ press itself. Those whom he’d expect to understand his principles have none themselves and Jones finds himself increasingly isolated.
Mr Jones is based on a true story and one can’t help but draw threads from Agnieszka Holland’s film and Andrea Chalupa’s screenplay and apply to them to what is occurring today in some countries: A powerful government with a largely fawning press happy to tow and feed out whatever the line passed to them.
That may have been uppermost in their minds because for all the bleak winter images of famine, emaciated children and desperate situations, Mr Jones doesn’t quite register with the emotional impact that it should.
The performances are fine it’s just a surprisingly flat affair and at times looks very stagey in particular when Jones is dealing with the conniving Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard). Jones’ principles are never in any doubt there’s just a cloying earnestness about the film as the decadence of high society is set against the images of famine; the points are hit home with hammer blows.