Red Joan - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Red Joan Reviews

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½ May 15, 2019
Very drawn-out and unentertaining.
½ May 12, 2019
Great history movie about some truth and how thing could of been with some brave individuals
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
May 12, 2019
Red Joan is inspired by a true story of an elderly British woman being outed in the 1980s for being a spy for the Russians and passing along British nuclear secrets. If the real story were as boring as what appears onscreen, I doubt anyone would care. Judi Dench plays the older Joan dealing with the public reckoning decades in the making and Sophie Cookson (Kingsmen) plays the young college grad in the 1940s who lands a top nuclear physicists job with the government and alongside a married man she falls for. Some friends who might not really be her friends snooker Joan into becoming a spy, and her rationale is that the world will be a safer place if other countries have the bomb other than simply America. Older Joan says history has proven her right and she takes partial credit for helping to ensure peace. First off, this logic seems faulty. If something is dangerous, I don't know if it's less dangerous if more people/countries have it (see: the firearm industry). Secondly, there were numerous incidents that almost brought the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. to mutually assured self-destruction including the Cuban Missile Crisis. The biggest problem with Red Joan is how shockingly boring it all is. A young woman pulled into espionage and treason, having to maintain her secrets while they eat away at her and she betrays her colleagues and loved ones, that's the stuff of complex human drama, or at least it should be if the storytelling knows what it's doing. The movie never seems to treat what she's doing with great stakes. Here's an example of how rushed and under developed the story can be: scene 1) Joan learns her co-worker doesn't have a great marriage; scene 2) they complete a crossword together and he nudges closer; scene 3) they kiss and he declares his love for her. This sequence of events is portrayed during a travel montage or all things. The characters are so underwritten and their compromises and conflicts rarely feel real because of moments like this. The acting is generally good all around and I wish Cookson would get a starring vehicle worthy of her talents. The biggest mystery for me with Red Joan is that the story depicted onscreen is made up, diverging from the real events, so why didn't they tell a better story with their freedom?

Nate's Grade: C
½ May 11, 2019
The film was enjoyable in the moment and raised the interesting dilemma of the conflict between science and what it is ultimately used for. However, I was shocked to read about the real Melita Norwood on whom the film is loosely based. She was a diehard communist, not a Cambridge graduate and a real Russian spy for decades.
May 10, 2019
Great performance by Dench...fascinating account of the mind of communist sympathizers in the 1940s.
May 10, 2019
At last a film with a storyline to it, not spoilt by wasteful, expensive sets and silly boring 'car chases'.
Thought provoking, and well acted.
May 9, 2019
Interesting subject filled with moral dilemmas - excellent acting with Sophie Cookson perfectly cast as Judy Dench's character's younger self
½ May 9, 2019
If I were a woman I would boycott this movie. A woman scientist seemingly made helpless by her sexual desire and romantic feelings toward a series of men. Adrift, willing to compromise secrets, become a traitor, throw her career away as she is manipulated by cynical men and even more cynical Soviet spies. A godawful movie.
½ May 5, 2019
I enjoyed the movie mainly beacause it sent me away wanting to know more about Melita Norwood another forgotten amazing woman during war times. I had to come to terms with the realisation that Dame Judi is a very senior citizen and was disappointed that her role appeared to require nothing substantial other than the odd blinking of her rhumey eyes and looking aghast. Despite the young Jo Jo dropping her probably beautifully ironed knickers & her beautifully ironed blouses for that 'cad' Leon & eventual long suffering 'hubby' Max the story was moved although sluggishly to a pleasing end. If you are a baby boomer interested in history although in this film the facts are scarce you could enjoy this flick. Younger people nah stay away go & get head butted by the latest 'Avengers'.
May 5, 2019
This quiet, thoughtful film is perhaps too intellectual for many American viewers, concerning itself with a past that antedates most of them. Yet the subject of the film is luminous in our time: first the proper definition of treason but also, more broadly, the point at which our actions should serve not merely our countries but the world and the whole of humanity. Judi Dench's performance is stellar, as might be expected, and it is to be hoped that fans of her other films will not be deterred from watching this one by the lackluster responses of RT's critics and audience.
May 4, 2019
This movie was great! I don't know what was wrong with the so-called "critics" reviewers.
May 4, 2019
Very enjoyable. It might be a little slow for some tastes and isnt your normal spy movie. But if you are intersted in history its very entertaining.
May 3, 2019
In 1999 Judi Dench won an Oscar for her 6 minutes on screen in "Shakespeare In Love" and here she spends a little more time on screen in "Red Joan". She has a fiery speech near the end that expresses the movie's moral stance. Dame Dench is no longer a newcomer to the big screen and is more or less wasted in a role that seems to say 'many people in the audience came to see her so let's have her face on the screen for a minute or two every now and then'.

As many movies do these days it goes back and forth between Joan Stanley in her 80s and Joan in her 20s, played by Sophie Cookson, which would have been more effective after the opening seeing Joan being arrested for being a spy during WW 2. Cookson could have easily aged as the story is told and brought off a coup that has been done by others.

It supposedly 'inspired by the true story' of a KGB spy Melita Norwood though her name is never mentioned. She a graduate student at Cambridge in physics and gets involved with 3 men--I think--and soon rationalizes passing off papers about the atomic bomb that she feels would put Rusian on equal footing with the USA.

With all respect, if Judi had made fewer appearances it might have made more clear who became her husband and who was the father of her son played by Ben Miles. The other men in her life are played by Tom Hughes and Stephen Campbell while Tereza Srbova becomes her friend and introduces her to her cousin Leo with whom Joan has an affair with and begins getting involved with the politics of the time.

I had many questions regarding who she had affairs with, who the father of her son was, whom she married, how did she get back from Australia and why was she forgotten so many years.

"Red Joan" is a typical Britsh quiet spy movie without the noise and fast pace of the Bond movies. It also is bringing out of the closet many stories about women who did a lot during the war but were not giving respect as the men were during that era. She was just a woman who got the tea instead of supplying the important answers that the world was asking for.

For me it just makes me want to find out who the true Melita Norwood was an what happened to her.


Joan Stanley (Judi Dench) is a widow living out a quiet retirement in the suburbs when, shockingly, the British Secret Service places her under arrest. The charge: providing classified scientific information´┐ 1/2"including details on the building of the atomic bomb´┐ 1/2"to the Soviet government for decades. As she is interrogated, Joan relives the dramatic events that shaped her life and beliefs: her student days at Cambridge, where she excelled at physics while challenging deep-seated sexism; her tumultuous love affair with a dashing political radical (Tom Hughes); and the devastation of World War II, which inspired her to risk everything in pursuit of peace. [IFC Films]
May 2, 2019
Amazing film!
So interesting to see the unlikely story unfold!
Great acting. It's interesting to see Judy Dench playing a very different role.
April 30, 2019
What should be an intriguing story of espionage pretty soon becomes monotonous and boring. You have to wonder that having changed so much of the true story that this is based on that the writers could have avoided creating such a dreary movie. All this despite good performances from Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson, among others.
April 26, 2019
It was inspirational in terms of morality and balancing personal ideals against National allegiance. Excellent acting and the story was fascinating and gripping, brilliantly unfolded and developed. A 'must see' for individuals grappling with their own priorities.
April 23, 2019
A beautiful story about an inspirational women. Thoughtfully and respectfully presented with an amazing cast and cinematography.
½ April 22, 2019
It drags on and on and on. For a film about a spy there is absolutely nothing thrilling about it at all, and instead seems to meander along the path of a bland romance. Judi Dench is amazing as usual, and it is obvious that Sophie Cookson was trying her hardest, but the script simply wasted both their talents and instead Cookson came across as passionless. Too much time was spent at Cambridge, and not enough time was spent on the espionage or the time after she was arrested. It is a fascinating story and could have been made so well, but it just wasn't.
April 21, 2019
Red Joan is a film based on the book of the same name inspired on true life events. The film was directed by Trevor Nunn and stars Judi Dench as Joan Stanley and Sophie Cookson as Joan Stanley.

The acting was good for the most part, but I felt that Sophie Cookson gave a bland and lacklustre performance.

The characters were steady for the most part, but nothing that special or memorable.

The film also had some good cinematography with some cool shots of the scenery.

I personally liked the war and modern settings of the film and thought that they were pulled off quiet nicely.

The set design and props were strong for the most part, but nothing really that special.

The costume design like the set design and props were strong and fit the era nicely.

The style of the film was okay; I liked the colour scheme for the most part, but for most of the film it felt bland and uninteresting.

The dialogue was steady and fit the era, but nothing really that memorable.

The editing at points felt choppy, but for the most part it was sound.

The music of the film I personally liked and thought that it fit very well into the background.

The story was strong for the most part, but I felt that the characters and pacing of the film distracted me from the story.

The film did have some okay comedy, but it was very far and between.

In my opinion the film has some strong atmosphere here and there especially a scene in which Joan Stanley is trying to look for her friend Sonya.

The film toward the end also was a little emotional but It didn't really work for me.

The film also drags on a lot and is something that I wouldn't really watch again.

Over all I give it a 4/10 - not bad, but not good
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