Set in the year 1961, the film begins with a sixty-year-old man named Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent) appearing in court. He’s on trial for snatching the portrait of the Duke of Wellington, which was on display at the National Gallery in London. He stands confidently in front of a judge, claiming he is not guilty. But the question is, did he do it? And if so, how?
We then go back to where it all began. Working as a Taxi Driver, Kempton is a talkative man even when customers are not interested in chit chat. He has a heart and passion for standing up for others in need and enjoys a good fight for what he feels is right. Kempton lives with his wife, Dorothy (Helen Mirren), who works as a cleaner. Kempton is also the father of two sons who have been known to get into trouble. But when Kempton is laid off as a Taxi driver, he soon finds something else that draws his attention and energy. Disgusted that people must pay the price to obtain a TV licence, he decides to take the matter head-on, seeking signatures and conducting various protests. But to our surprise, Kempton recently became the owner of the Duke of Wellington portrait, which sits hidden in his office!
The Duke is based on a true story with moments of drama and even a touch of feel-good comedy. The film begins with many mysterious aspects and hides key details from its audiences, making it highly engaging and hooking viewers early. Did Kempton take the painting, and how did he gain possession of it? These are just some of the fun questions set up early in the film. Watching the mystery aspects unfold is certainly a fun element and the touching drama is also excellent.
Performances here from both Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren are wonderful. They are believable as a married couple, and the dialogue the two share is quite snappy and pleasing. They are a couple going through hard times, and carrying an element of sadness from their past. I can’t deny it; when it comes to the characters, Helen Mirren is certainly a major standout here, and once again, the actress doesn’t disappoint.
Visually, there’s a lot to praise. Great costumes, locations and set design all give the look and feel of 1961. There are fun transitions between scenes that make the film look and feel older, which was creative to see. The pacing is quick and snappy and moves along nicely; it never feels dull or uninteresting. Thanks to the great performances and a fun yet mysterious plot, I’m certain that audiences will be delighted by this film as the credits roll.
Overall, this is a fun yet dramatic film with mysterious elements, which I wasn’t expecting. The leads, played by Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren, are highly convincing and entertaining as a married couple dealing with past hurts and a situation that’s a real pickle. The film’s visuals, sets, locations, and transitions between scenes also take audiences back in time. As the credit rolled, I thought The Duke was delightful, fun and highly pleasing.