Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of the DOWNTON ABBEY Film?
The worldwide phenomenon Downton Abbey, has officially become a grand motion picture event, as the beloved Crawleys and their intrepid staff prepare for the most important moment of their lives. A royal visit from the King and Queen of England will unleash scandal, romance and intrigue that will leave the future of Downton hanging in the balance. Written by series creator Julian Fellowes and starring the original cast.
Downton Abbey opened nationwide on September 20, 2019.
Let's see what the critics are saying...
Pete Hammond, Deadline: It is all here in the beautifully detailed film that carries on the story fans thought was over and done, and it does it effortlessly with Donal Wood's sumptuous production design, Anna Robbins' perfectly appointed costumes, Ben Smithard's sparkling cinematography and an aces musical score from John Lunn emphasizing that familiar theme throughout.
Glen Weldon, NPR: They're all back, in a film that's less a victory lap than a cakewalk. Which is to say: In every meaningful way, the film feels like another episode of the series, reproducing, with remarkable fidelity, its various strengths and its sundry weaknesses.
John Anderson, The Wall Street Journal: Mr. Fellowes, being something of a genius at briskly established plotlines and characterizations, clearly knew that a regal visit would be an ideal way to show off the best and worst of each Downton habitué, from Robert and Cora Crawley, the earl and countess of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern ), to Lady Mary in her new Louise Brooks bob (the hair will no doubt be a sensation), to the folks below stairs, each of whom has his or her moment of valor or shame. While there's an enhanced lushness to "Downton Abbey"-the interiors seem richer, the aerial shots of that glorious house are more exalted-it hasn't changed in its overall visual approach: The closest thing to a close-up are the shots introducing various characters, which seem intended to reassure fans that no one is missing, except those characters who were killed off in such wholesale fashion back when the series was a going concern. There are no flashbacks to Lady Sybil or Matthew Crawley. It is, and remains, 1927.
Brian Lowry, CNN: Despite the series' much-adorned run, the movie isn't a masterpiece, or the sort of event that might warrant rushing out to the theater. Ultimately, though, it's another satisfying chapter, demonstrating that enough still glitters around "Downton Abbey" to make it worth seeing for anyone who loved the show, eventually, if not sooner.
Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair: So Downton Abbey's two-hour story unfolds, Fellowes managing a variety of different plotlines with pleasing thoroughness. Chief among the players in this (I'd think) final go-around are Allen Leech's Tom Branson, whose Irish Republican roots have some questioning his loyalty to the monarchy, and Maggie Smith's scheming Lady Crawley, who's out, as ever, to gain more status for her family. Of course all your other favorites are back, too, each having their pippy little moments as the movie waltzes along.
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: And though Fellowes and director Michael Engler have taken pains to make the plot engaging for newcomers, this is a film, as was the case with the Harry Potter series and the Avengers saga, where the emotional connection will be strongest for those who've been there from the start. Engler, who directed some of "Downton's" TV episodes, also has taken advantage of this production's bigger screen and bigger budget, for instance using drone shots to show us Highclere Castle, "Downton's" 300-room location, from the air.
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: Downton Abbey on screen is patently a work of fan service, something to delight the devoted - yet even diehards may be annoyed at the lack of meat on the feature's elegant bones. Each character makes a dutiful appearance only to disappear quickly, as if those in charge are merely taking attendance rather than giving the actors anything meaningful to do.
Lindsey Bahr, ABC News: That's not to say that there aren't good moments. There are, in fact, many, especially for those who miss the voyeurism of the fancy dress evenings with THE FAMILY and their helpers. As in the series, the Dowager is always a standout and at 84, Maggie Smith is as fierce and fiery as ever in bringing her to life. And it is always lovely spending time in such lush surroundings. But the movie could have benefited on a little focus and not so much fan service, especially considering how good all of the ensemble actors are in these roles. Perhaps that's why Fellowes couldn't choose just one.
Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times: But DA: TA also reminded me of Fellowes' great strength: he creates characters that we care about, and what a joy it was to spend time with them again. There's a scene involving the Dowager and Mary, late in the film, that's as good as anything in the finest days of the series (which is to say, Seasons 1-2); a moment of sweet hopefulness for poor, vulnerable Thomas, the former Evil Butler (Robert James-Collier); and the great pleasure of seeing Joanne Froggatt's ever-noble Anna smiling again. And then there's that glorious EYE CANDY - call it Downton porn - writ large: the costumes (by Anna Robbins, each lovelier than the last), the twilight, the landscapes and, most of all, Highclere Castle itself, getting its swoonworthy big-screen due. It's not a great movie, not by any definition, but I happily lapped up every minute. Nice to see you back, Downton; this fan missed you.
Michael O'Sullivan, The Washington Post: Of course, if series creator Julian Fellowes, who wrote the zippy screenplay (ably directed by Michael Engler), were really interested in the implicit class conflicts at the heart of the story - interested beyond lip service, that is - there might be a real tale to tell. As it is, "Downton Abbey," the movie, feels a little too in love with rank and privilege. Set in 1927, the film feels like it is just as hyperventilating about the royal visit as Downton's staff is, maybe even more so.
Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post: If none of this sounds like a movie, it's because it shouldn't be one. Julian Fellowes would have been far better off writing another relaxed Christmas special to satisfy fans. But to pump up the film's flowery, small-screen plot, shots are overly sweeping and every character's entrance is given a metaphorical drumroll. The sexy intimacy that made the TV show great is destroyed. Fellowes also went way too wild on the zingers, and suddenly every lady's maid is Oscar Wilde.
Chris Hunneysett, Mirror: Maggie Smith makes an emotional return as the indomitable Dowager Countess to continue her sparring with Penelope Wilton's Baroness, the latter being such a skilful actress she doesn't always need dialogue to compete for the last word. Director Michael Engler moves the camera around with a graceful fluidity to show THE FAMILY residence off to its most majestic advantage, with Highclere Castle doing justice to the big screen, or possibly vice versa.