‘Red Joan’ Review: Not Enough Drama, or Enough Judi Dench, in British Spy Story

  • The Wrap
Our first shot of Joan Stanley (Judi Dench) in “Red Joan” is inauspicious enough. A librarian in a cozy cardigan, she’s pruning roses outside her small, neatly kept row house in a London suburb. But then there’s a knock at the door. And a charge of treason.

Unfortunately, director Trevor Nunn can’t match the rest of the film to this intriguing open, in part because he loses Dench for so much it.

Nunn — who usually focuses on the stage, alternating between Shakespearean adaptations and splashy productions like “Cats” and “Les Misérables” — does know how to craft a good-looking movie. He just doesn’t seem motivated to make a particularly challenging one. There’s a sense of missed opportunity hovering around the edges of this curious story, which ought to be tense and complex but rarely is.

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