'Downton Abbey' movie review: Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville return for delightful film version of British TV hit

'Downton Abbey' movie review: Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville return for delightful film version of British TV hit

Most of the original cast, including Michelle Dockery and Jim Carter, are back as the Crawleys prepare for a royal visit

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(From left) Actors Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, and Michelle Dockery reprise their roles as Lady Hexham, Lady Grantham and Lady Mary Talbot in Downton Abbey.
Photo: Focus Features

Dig out your coattails and feather boa, the high society event of the year has arrived. After four long years, beloved British TV series Downton Abbey has returned - and this time, to the big screen.

The last time we saw the Crawley family, everyone had pretty much got their happily ever after (if you haven’t finished the TV show, look away now): Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) had married an Earl, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) had learned to be happy for her, and butler Carson (Jim Carter) had hung up his bowler hat and headed into the sunset with housekeeper Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan).

It’s now 1927, and the Crawleys have seemingly enjoyed a few years of relative peace and quiet. Not for long, of course. Before the familiar opening theme song has finished playing, a letter arrives for Robert Crawley, aka Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville); Downton is to receive a visit from the King and Queen themselves. Cue a flurry of activity as the household prepare to welcome the royal guests.

Less warmly received, however, is the royal entourage. Downton’s servants are determined not to be sidelined by this snooty bunch, and even pull Carson out of retirement to help them. After all, if anyone is going to be serving prawn cocktails to the King, it’s them.

If that wasn’t enough excitement for you, there is also a secret illegitimate child (another one!), an assassination attempt, and romance on the horizon for two of Downton’s bachelors.

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Okay, so the action may not be a mile a minute, but Downton Abbey the movie has everything fans of the TV show could possibly want: stunning scenery, gorgeous period costumes, and oodles of British charm (did we mention one of the bad guys is French?).

The only true disappointment is that Violet Crawley’s (Maggie Smith) famously stinging barbs are simply not what they were. Whenever she is on screen, you anticipate an icy stare or remark, only to get a lukewarm one instead. Dame Maggie deserves better.

Still, Downton Abbey offers moviegoers something that’s hard to come by in this political climate: two hours of blissful escapism. This reviewer would gladly watch five more sequels.

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