At what price do you follow your convictions? When do you feel you've given all you can to a cause? Is sacrificing everything you have, even if it means public disgrace, truly worth one soul's redemption? Weighty questions those -- and its queries such as those that form the core of Peter Morgan's fascinating character study Longford. Based upon real events that transpired in the UK in the mid-'60s, it's a film that builds its narrative with reprehensible violence, devout religiosity and gritty political machinations, an odd but potent mixture that director Tom Hooper handles adroitly.
Jim Broadbent, one of his generation's more underrated character actors, stars as Frank Pakenham, the seventh Earl of Longford, a distinguished member of the House of Lords and a man known for his occasionally naive crusades against such hot-button issues as pornography. A deeply religious man who converted to Catholicism in his teens, Frank is someone who tends to see the best in people, even if all others have long since given up trying. Myra Hindley (a riveting Samantha Morton) is one of two people accused of committing the "Moors Murders," a gruesome series of child killings that enraged the public and ensured that Myra and her lover Ian Brady (a sinister Andy Serkis) would remain in prison for decades to come. By ingratiating himself with Myra and taking on the role of advocate for her, Frank becomes enmeshed in a game of psychological chess that puts all he holds dear on the line -- his reputation, his job, even his family.
While Longford does its business in a quick 90 minutes, revealing any more of the plot would spoil Morgan's subtle work; the acclaimed screenwriter is fast becoming the premier political dramatist of our time, skilled at blending real events with imagined fiction, teasing out the underlying importance of seemingly banal occurrences. Morgan is also greatly assisted by Hooper's spare directorial hand and a quartet of sterling turns from Broadbent, Serkis, Morton and Lindsay Duncan as Lady Longford. Longford, much like Morgan's work in The Queen and The Last King of Scotland is captivating stuff, a compelling legal and moral thriller that moves you as it grips you, riveting you until its final frames.
Presented on DVD as originally broadcast on HBO earlier this year, Longford looks clean and vivid in its 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The brief use of stock footage and archival materials feature plenty of wear and tear, but the bulk of the film is crisp and rich, befitting a recently created production.
Again, as originally broadcast on HBO, Longford sounds as good as it looks with its Dolby 2.0 stereo track; dialogue and score never intrude upon one another, each heard with great fidelity and warmth. Optional English subtitles are also included.
The supplements are few in number, but high in quality: Hooper and Morgan sit for an informative commentary track, while the six minute, 18 second featurette "For the Record: Firsthand Accounts of the Moors Murders," presents a bit more history about the notorious killings pinned on Brady and Hindley .
Based upon real events that transpired in the UK in the mid-'60s, Longford is a film that builds its narrative with reprehensible violence, devout religiosity and gritty political machinations, an odd but potent mixture that director Tom Hooper handles adroitly. It's captivating stuff, a compelling legal and moral thriller that moves you as it grips you, riveting you until its final frames. Highly recommended.