By Adam Ray Palmer
When visiting the 69th Berlin Film Festival, I knew very little about the film Mr Jones, and even less about the remarkable true story behind the script.
Mr Jones stars James Norton as the titular character with a supporting cast including Peter Sarsgaard, Vanessa Kirby and Kenneth Cranham.
The narrative to this film is vast, much larger than a single character, but we are told the story through the journalistic eyes of Gareth Jones. Mr Jones (the man) is a 28-year-old writer who longs to tell the truth. He turns in articles, largely political, that always expose actuality. He has the personality of a committed journalist that once he is onto something, he won't let it go.
With this in mind, after gaining entry into Moscow, he stays at a hotel where many of his ilk are residing. He meets many journalists who love the party lifestyle, they seem hollow and beaten inside and are basically kept men and women inside a country prison... Russia. He quickly learns that once you stay in Moscow, you stay until they are finished with you. This allows his suspicion to grow that the Soviets are up to something, and whatever it is, they don't want it getting out.
After investigating further, alongside the death of his colleague Paul Kleb and with the support of fellow writer Vanessa Kirby, Gareth Jones finds the answers. But now he is in a predicament... Does he keep quiet and have a career in journalism that's tainted by an immoral lie, or tell the world his findings and risk his life? He chooses the latter. He travels to Ukraine where terrible famine is taking place, millions of lives are being lost and the Soviets are hushing it up with some hidden aid.
The film is impressive, for a number of factors. Firstly, there's so much ground to cover in two hours. Agnieszka Holland (director) and Andrea Chalupa (writer) keeps a perfect balance of making sure the story flows but also to pack in as much detail as possible. This is a story that hasn't been told before so there’s so much to say, but the writing-directing pair leave nothing more to be desired. Secondly, the cinematography in Mr Jones is sublime. It's cold and delicate but so intense too. You really feel the chill of the era but also get such a vivid picture. It's marvellous work from Tomasz Naumiuk.
In summary, Mr Jones is an important tale. Gareth is such an important figure in world history, and most will not even know of his significance. Well, enter this film and be amazed. James Norton's performance is haunting, and totally leaves a mark. The harrowing famine in 1930s Ukraine is a dark story, brought to light by a thought-provoking and impressive movie.
Cineroom's rating: 4 stars
Mr Jones will be released later in the year.