Hour, The (Blu-ray Review)21 Sep, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel
$34.98 two-DVD set, $39.98 two-disc Blu-ray
Stars Romola Garai, Ben Whishaw, Dominic West, Tim Pigott-Smith, Juliet Stevenson, Anton Lesser, Anna Chancellor, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Oona Chaplin.
It’s the late 1950s and the Cold War is in full throttle. Ian Fleming has penned Casino Royale, introducing the world to British secret service agent James Bond. And the BBC is launching a fictional program dubbed “The Hour,” which promises to diverge from the usual government-sanctioned general fluff to harder-hitting news stories.
Brilliant (but arrogant) Freddie (Ben Whishaw) is bored beyond the daily staple of cigarettes and booze and seeks to expand his reporting prowess past the newsreel division and to producer of “The Hour.” But curvy colleague Bel (eye-catching Romola Garai) gets the assignment, much to the chagrin of Freddie, whose intellect can’t overcome the era’s mantra that a woman’s place is subservient to a man’s. Indeed, several after-work pubs don’t allow women.
The program is hosted by debonair newsreader Hector (Dominic West), whose primary skill involves outmaneuvering the opposite sex under the nose of a naïve (but socially-connected) wife. Interspersed between the sexual tension and clashing egos is a burgeoning subway murder of a college professor – apparently a clandestine warrior against a secret plot to destroy democracy in Britain.
This Orwellian charge is delivered to Freddie by Ruth (Vanessa Kirby), a one-time party debutante/girlfriend whose first-hand knowledge of this secret plot — much to her endangerment —belies more than a loss of innocence. Of course, Freddie is slow to grasp the tip —dismissing it as drunken rants from an intellectual inferior.
Therein lies the weakness of The Hour — a story that should be concluded after 60 minutes instead is dragged out over a six-episode arc, which leaves plenty of time for sidebar dalliances and innuendo while saving the free world one glacial step at a time. Regardless, The Hour, is a slick production (think “Mad Men”) whose characters, unfortunately, are not as entertainingly egregious.