Mr. Jones (2019) Poster

(2019)

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8/10
The History of Propaganda
marcus-fliegel14 February 2019
Saw this at Berlinale and was impressed. Agnieszka Holland created a strong historical drama, employing artistical license here an there. But the main points (different from what user-973-741969 claims in his review) are true. Blasphemy it is only to those who still worship Stalin. The movie follows political advisor/journalist Gareth Jones. After losing his job with the british foreign secretary in London he tries to reeignite his career through an interview with Stalin. And why not since he already interviewed Hitler and Goebbels (where the movie lazily unterplays his admiration for the pre-war-Nazis. Sadly Jones didn´t live to see their downfall and could never reevaluate his naivety). In Moscow, Jones contacts NYT-Reporter Duranty, who is well connected an a staunch supporter of Stalin. Jones doesnt make it to the Soviet Leader but can board a train south to inspect the industrialisation of the Soviet Union. But he escapes the agents that accompany him and travels on his own through Ukraine to witness the Holodomor, a famine that cost millions of lives as a result of Stalins communist reshaping of agriculture in 1933 and was until then mostly unheard of outside of the USSR - and even in the SU. Back in the west Jones has a hard time to prove his allegations. His camera was taken, Duranty, who has a much better reputation calls him a liar and even the british government doesn´t want to risk the lucrative economic relations with the USSR. Holland focuses only partly on the famine and more on the role of stalinist propaganda and the gullability of western media and politics, that swept this catastrophe under the rug for decades. It´s a thrilling movie that doesn´t have the budget to show millions of dead and instead focuses on intimate an gruesome details. The luxury of the elites (western & russian) in Moscow are in stark contrast to the suffering of the peasants. "Mr Jones" brings us to the beginning of worldwide propaganda and fake news strategies where a journalists live is cheap and the people are just pawns in hands of big powers.
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8/10
Difficult role of journalist right before war
januszkiewiczadrian7 November 2019
Another very good film presenting the fight of the truth against geopolitics and money. Based on facts with an important narrator. Recommendable!
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10/10
Who said we care more about the truth now than 90 years ago? No, we do not.
ygavryli1 December 2019
The only downside of this movie is it is too close to the reality and hence is so short on fiction. The acting, storytelling, soundtracks fit so well together. It's a gem of educational cinema that lights a part of dark history of humanity. Sure many will insist that all that horrible stuff the movie is about is firmly in the past, but I am afraid we are born to repeat history and this tragic story in particular. At least there are those who can tell the truth whatever consequences. Do only sick minds come up with gruesome atrocities? Watch it and you will have your own answer. It will be a must watch for my kids, when they are ready for it. I'd taken no food to watch the movie and I didn't regret it.
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9/10
Back in the USSR
SteveMierzejewski9 February 2020
This is a powerful film which I'm afraid few people will watch. Even those who watch it, may feel the situations it portrays are exaggerated or completely made up. They are not. The problems caused by Stalin in Ukraine are, if anything, downplayed.

But beyond the historical accuracy are the questions about the behavior of the people and their morality as it is portrayed in the film. Did diplomats and politicians really behave like this? Not only did they behave like this. They continue to behave like this. I've worked in government NGOs overseas and I've seen the insincerity of most diplomats close up. I've also experienced their ability to blind themselves of the truth if the truth endangers their high paid positions.

There are people out there now who know the truth and who are being told to keep quiet. There are people I've known who were undermined when trying to do what was right. So, this movie is telling the truth for them. You may not like what it has to say, but who says the truth has to be pleasant.
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10/10
Perfection on Every Level
gschuyler-6686522 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
When a movie achieves perfection across the board--in originality, production design, acting, directing, editing and score--and the story is both highly compelling and historical, it deserves nothing less than a 10. The attention to detail of every aspect of this movie is extraordinary. And that it's also an historical drama about an unsung hero who paid the ultimate price to expose the Truth, and has so much relevance in the current era of false news, is the icing on the cake.
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6/10
Showcases the importance of journalism.
neobateman17 April 2019
Mr. Jones is the last film I managed to experience at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival. Directed by Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa) and starring James Norton (McMafia), Vanessa Kirby (Mission: Impossible - Fallout) and Peter Sarsgaard (Garden State). This historical thriller revolves around the independent journalist Gareth Jones (Norton) in the early 1930s travelling to the Soviet Union attempting to find out the secret to Stalin's economic success. What he finds is beyond any horror he could ever imagine. What unfolds is fight for survival, truth and integrity. There is a very solid cast in this film, Norton delivers a fantastic performance in the title role giving charisma, making him a relate-able figure to audiences. Kirby plays a mysterious agent that is involved with the sinister disappearance of a fellow journalist. Sarsgaard plays a washed up Brit who found success in Stalin's Soviet Union and may be the stand out in this entire cast. Even all the minor actors give terrific performances allowing us to be drawn into this world. The main feeling I had however while watching this picture was a very similar feeling I had with films like Darkest Hour, Jackie, The Iron Lady or J Edgar. They feel like a Wikipedia article, interesting and important material but a essential emotional connection is missing. I was an observer of this world the film presented, but I wanted to be apart of it. The problem was that the film was very uneven giving us unnecessary information. We are forced to pay attention and can not allow emotions to sink in, therefore I was left cold for the majority of the picture. That's not to say there aren't any strong moments in the film, towards the second act, Jones is forced to travel in through the snowy ice desert of Siberia (not to spoil too much). The way this sequence is shot, with many wide shots showcasing the vast emptiness, including the sounds of the wind made me feel like I was freezing to death in a warm cinema. There are truly scary revelations in this sequence of the film and Norton delivers a great performance in these scenes but there simply weren't enough of them. If the film decided to make this less about Jones himself and more about the case, this would have been one of the greatest thrillers I would have seen in a while. However as it stands, Mr. Jones is a watchable film with a very great visual presentation and good performances. However the film also lacks a emotional connection that hurts the experience.
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9/10
holodomors grainfields
ops-525357 February 2020
Take away an entire peoples bread, and they will be dead, is the goal of holodomor. this historical drama, does in a marvellous way, and through very nice acting, set the spotlight on one of the greatest man made famines in history. they forgot to mention nansen by the way, a man that also werent afraid to make an effort to spread the news on the subject.

its a must see movie, it may be a bit slow to many but thats not a coincidence thinks the grumpy old man. a recommend
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8/10
The best movie about Holodomor so far
smoothrunner7 January 2020
Being Ukrainian it's somewhat hard to criticize "Mr. Jones" since it's one of a kind movie which brings up pretty uncomfortable to the West topic of genocide of Ukrainians in the Soviet Union. Nevertheless I'd rather refrain from prizing movie as an art form simply because it has shed some lite on scrupulously leave out issue. But this movie is surprisingly pretty good as an art. Dialogues are good, sometimes funny, and picture is overall quite aesthetic. Historical accuracy, though, being quite decent, in some cases failed. As Orwell's fan I'd like to point out that it is highly unlikely that Erik Arthur Blair obtained information about Holodomor from Gareth Jones since Erik's close friend Malcolm Muggeridge (whom Orwell mentioned in his essays) also wrote about this genocide so he is the most probable source of Orwell's information. The overall context of Soviet industry being build in 1930th by the Western countries (mostly by UK and US) in expense of money gained by murdering millions of Ukrainians is correct. Therefore I think it is very unlikely that this genocide of which the West benefited along with Russia will be ever widely recognized. But this was not only mass murder and robbery in order to gain profit (profit was a mere bonus). Thing is this movie failed to call Holodomor what it was - genocide of Ukrainians. As Raphael Lemkin wrote in his now forbidden in Russia article - "Soviet genocide in the Ukraine" (1953): "Ukraine is highly susceptible to racial murder by select parts and so the Communist tactics there have not followed the pattern taken by the German attacks against the Jews. The nation is too populous to be exterminated completely with any efficiency. However, its leadership, religious, intellectual, political, its select and determining parts, are quite small and therefore easily eliminated, and so it is upon these groups particularly that the full force of the Soviet axe has fallen, with its familiar tools of mass murder, deportation and forced labour, exile and starvation... The attack has manifested a systematic pattern, with the whole process repeated again and again to meet fresh outbursts of national spirit. The first blow is aimed at the intelligentsia, the national brain, so as to paralyse the rest of the body... Going along with this attack on the intelligentsia was an offensive against the churches, priests and hierarchy, the 'soul' of Ukraine... The third prong of the Soviet plan was aimed at the farmers, the large mass of independent peasants who are the repository of the tradition, folklore and music, the national language and literature, the national spirit, of Ukraine. The weapon used against this body is perhaps the most terrible of all - starvation... The method used in this part of the plan was not at all restricted to any particular group. All suffered - men, women and children... The fourth step in the process consisted in the fragmentation of the Ukrainian people at once by the addition to the Ukraine of foreign peoples and by the dispersion of the Ukrainians throughout Eastern Europe... This is not simply a case of mass murder. It is a case of genocide, of destruction, not of individuals only, but of a culture and a nation." People was not only stripe off any food (not only crop, all kind of food were "requisited" by the Red Army), they where not allowed to flee from villages or to eat fish, wild animals etc. Recollections like this are pretty common: "In our village, when the famine came, for some reason turtles began to swim into the lake. They could be cooked. But the very next day there were armed soldiers around the lake who were not allow no one to the lake." All humanitarian aid from few countries and Western Ukrainians (which were under Polish occupation by then) was refused by Soviet authorities. There were mass cases of cannibalism and even worse evils which this movie omits. But nevertheless "Mr. Jones" is the best movie about this unpopular topic so far.
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10/10
What is the relationship between Animal Farm and the Famine of the 1930s?
Andreas-Just6 January 2020
Prologue.

After a pleasant acquaintance with Agnieszka Holland's film "Trail of the Beast" about ecology, I was glad about such a hot topic, and I found out about the announcement a couple of months after watching it and you know what? I really waited and began subconsciously nominating him for the film of the year among Ukrainian films (though I didn't miss it), but for what I'll tell you right now:

Tones and talking picture.

There are no light colors in the film except the Metropol, which was presented as an illusion of the wealth of the USSR, and the rest of the time we have pictures in gray and white that perfectly describe the depression and suffering of the people. As for the production, this film does not talk about the Holodomor like most films, but SHOWS these events and I must say that this is the best solution for such a topic. Cannibalism, dead bodies and empty villages ...

Stalin played the violin.

Music in all places except the Metropol is mostly sad violin etudes, and the song of hungry children crawls to goosebumps. The whole selection of violin motifs always falls into the right places and makes the body cover itself with cold and absorb the eyes into the abyss of pain on the screen.

Real journalist and conversation with Orwell.

The beginning goes from afar to familiarize us with Garrett Jones. And they begin with his ideals at that time about the "Soviet utopia". Arriving in Moscow, he was limited in his ability to leave, and the brothel left a residue. In Ukraine, we again get to know the character because what he saw changed him from the inside, and everything he saw was a huge shock. After the experience and the NKVD, he still tells the truth at the risk of 6 Britons and meets with Orwell and accidentally became the inspirer of his book "Farmyard" (telling him everything that he saw). After the rink of lies, he rebuffed and answered, and yet the world heard the truth.

Epilogue.

"The Untold Story of Gareth Jones" is an actual story about the events of which is almost 90 years old, and at the same time, thanks to the journalists for their work. Categorically to view.
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10/10
The real horro
andriyvoron15 December 2019
The only downside to this movie is that it softens the real picture of what happened. Of course, to show that reality and to call maniacs and murderers maniacs and murderers is too much. But it's worth talking about and worth showing. Especially now that mankind is ready to forgive massacres and aggressive war to conduct business as usual. And I do not recommend taking your food with you for viewing, the real horror story awaits, much more frightening than King's or Barker's fictions, or the Holocaust story. Acting, of course, the soundtrack blends so well together. This is a gem that studies cinema, which is always part of the dark man.
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9/10
Bleak but powerful
steveab-716988 February 2020
I know some of the history of the era. This movie portrays the stark reality and attitudes of the times in a thoughtful way. This probably has to do with its Polish production background, rather than a direct Hollywoodesque attempt to portray this story. There is something very special about this movie that is rarely and properly captured by many modern production houses.
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8/10
An important watch
jakemaguirej18 February 2020
Warning: Spoilers
I was excited about this movie weeks prior to seeing it on screen as the plot seemed very interesting and refreshing. Going Into the movie i wasn't quite aware of the factual accuracy that the movie undertook and was surprised to find out after watching how real and accurate the protagonists story is. The idea is simple, a Welsh Journalist who has previously interviewed hitler (1933) wants to travel to Russia to interview Stalin. Most of the film is based around the depiction of the USSR pre-WW2 environment. Mr Jones finds himself entangled in a web of mysteries and deception as he discovers for himself the bleak and dismal realities of the Russian expansion over Europe. More importantly, Stalins tight grip over the economy and the enormous widespread famine that wiped out millions and plagued the soviet countryside's. This movie portrays the story from Gareth's objective point of view, but does it in a human fashion. The Spectator discovers alongside the protagonist making us feel as involved as the journalist is, in wanting to expose these secrets to the world. The harsh realities of a past not that distant from us should inspire all to pick up a history book and delve into a past that is not as known as the others. Strong movie with an important message. Nice screenplay and accurate character representation. Would recommend to a history buff.
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7/10
Fake News isn't a new thing
Karynsiegmann16 February 2020
Mr Jones Is the true story of Welsh journalist Gareth Jones who exposed the famine in the Ukraine that killed millions during Stalin's reign. While 'Fake News' as a term is relatively new the concept is not and is used by governments all over the world and at many times throughout history, this film is a timely reminder to never believe everything, even from reputable sources. Great performances and some nice cinematography. particularly in the Ukraine scenes. A little bit slow to start but once it got going it was excellent.
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7/10
Documentary about something that happened nearly a century ago. Still, its "fake news" topic is more relevant than ever
JvH4828 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Saw this at the Berlinale 2019, where it was part of the official Competition section (but got no prize). In the current era of "fake news", this documentary comes at a suitable moment. Propaganda is not new and invented many decades ago, if not centuries ago. The current scale and persistence is without precedent, however. If this movie showcases the value of professional and honest journalism, it is very welcome today. Even when showing a chapter in history that is nearly a century old, it brings a contemporary message.

We witness a daunting adventurous trip that results in a report about the famine in the Ukraine. It is a story that no politician at the time wanted to be brought in the open. He has to deal with obstructions on several levels and by several parties, in Russia where it could be expected as well as in his homeland UK. The Powers That Be deem a good relationship with Stalin more important than people's lives in the Ukraine. The actual truth behind the industrial "miracles" in the Ukraine, as repeatedly told by the Sovjet propaganda machinery, is very different. We witness it from close by. Alas, our reporter is captured and moved out of the country, with no proof whatsoever other than his memory. With famous Pulitzer Price winner Duranty siding on the Sovjets and consistently countering Jones, there is a problem who to believe...

The story develops in stages. We see the risks he takes, we see him remove some obstacles e.g. by forgering a letter of recommendation, we see his arrival in Moscow with a visum valid for a week only, and most of all we see his journey through the Ukraine in question. We see from very near that such a journey was not something to be taken lightly, coming very close to witness what a famine really means. We also see wheat being shipped to Moscow, as this is the "currency" that Stalin needs to pay for armery and planes, things that are officially manufactured in Ukraine as per Stalin's propaganda (aforementioned industrial "miracle").

As a documentary about the pre-WWII part of Russian history interacting on a political level with the rest of the world, particularly UK and USA, it works very well for me. I knew little about this beforehand, and it clarifies a lot. However, did I miss that insight before today?? (I think not.) It was nevertheless a tense two and a half hours, where so much could go very wrong, fatally wrong even, be it in Moscow, be it in the Ukraine, or even back in the UK with spies and hired killers all around. His adversaries may deem his reports unwelcome, and with their deep pockets and vazals to be hired they can get away with everything bad that an honest reporter may befall.

Question remains whether the two-and-a-half hours running time were necessary to get the message across. I know that Killing Your Daughters is not always easy, but we viewers have rights too. Please don't construe this as a statement that I was being bored stiff. Nevertheless, mixed feelings about the pacing of this movie remain.
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7/10
(UN)Forgotten Truth
khrystiayavna28 January 2020
Mr. Jones (Obywatel Jones) is a film directed by Agnieszka Holland, which premiered at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival. It is a story of a young journalist, Gareth Jones, who was one of the first to tell the world about the famine in Soviet Ukraine.

It is not the first time the Polish director has taken up filming a drama about Ukraine. For example, the movie In Darkness (W ciemnosci) is set in Lviv during the Second World War. The issue of genocide is common for both films. In Darkness explores the topic of the Holocaust, whereas Mr. Jones focuses on the Holodomor.

Agnieszka Holland's movie is distinctly different from Oles Yanchuk's seminal film Famine-33 or George Mendeluk's Bitter Harvest. The director shows the Soviet Union, including the Ukrainian SSR, through the eyes of a foreigner who himself witnesses and the major Ukrainian tragedy.

Gareth Jones' story is devoid of pseudo-documentary features and ridiculous romanticism. A young man, the former advisor to Lloyd George, a well-known political figure, wants to interview Joseph Stalin. He is willing to understand where the money the USSR uses to implement all its projects are coming from. The gentleman is confident that having talked to Hitler and having obtained the recommendation from the former British prime minister, he will be able to achieve his goal.

Upon the journalist's arrival in Moscow, his focus shifts from the leader of the state to his 'gold', i.e. the fertile Ukrainian black soil. Gareth Jones embarks on a journey after which his ordinary life will never be the same again.

Mr. Jones is ambitious and brutally honest. He is not afraid to disclose his point of view even at the risk of losing recognition or ruining his career. In spite of being ridiculed by the experienced politicians, despite being oppressed by the unjust system, he firmly stands by his convictions.

Mr. Jones' image is a combination of idealism and slight naivety. Would any other foreigner win such trust of the Soviet Union's officials that they send one single warden to accompany him, the warden who could be easily escaped from?

The idealism of the protagonist sharply contrasts with the dark-mindedness of Walter Duranty, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the New York Times, the so-called 'inside man in Moscow.' He is one of those who conceal the crimes of the USSR.

The film does not fully explain Duranty's motives. We can only guess what has happened. Has he been bribed? Has he given in to pressure? Or has he tried to protect his family?

In contrast, Gareth is the one who dares to find out the truth and tell it to others.

Mr. Jones faces the famine right after he has escaped from the warden. The encounter is set against the backdrop of a dark carriage which the journalist has managed to jump into. It is full of exhausted, weary people and it is a bright colored orange Gareth takes out of his bag that brings the given place to life.

At first he is surprised that he so easily manages to exchange a loaf of bread for a warm coat. However, the further he goes, the worse things happen around him.

There are a few scenes in Mr. Jones you might want to look away from. That is what the bitter truth is like. Even though it may seem to be on the verge of sheer madness. There are starving people everywhere; a baby who is still alive is thrown on the cart to the dead mother; cannibalism appears to be closer than ever. It is worth mentioning that all the events depicted in the film are accompanied by the authentic songs of the times of the famine. They convey both hope and hopelessness of the people who are singing them. The Holodomor in the life of a young Welsh journalist has grown into a personal tragedy. The tragedy of helplessness and vulnerability.

Gareth simply faces the barrier he is not able to break through, which is the AUTHORITY. He looks for other levers of influence and succeeds in finding them. Yet, people who can make a difference remain unconcerned with the problems of some distant, strategically unimportant people.

The piercing cold winter in the empty streets as well as the characters are far from being hyperbolized; the images appear to be plausible and true-to-fact. The life of the people of that time in the large USSR machine is shown in great detail. It is the reality where the propaganda is stronger than the truth and all the people are 'happy' moving towards the bright communist future, while the deaths of millions of people are wrapped in catchy slogans of progress and hidden in a deep drawer, away from other people's eyes.

A number of topics covered in Agnieszka Holland's film are still relevant today. Some media bombard people with populism and propaganda. Even the leading media sometimes neglect fact-checking and share unreliable information. So, has the situation changed since Gareth Jones tried to get at the truth? It seems so. Is the objective truth established everywhere and every time? Apparently, the answer to the latter question is debatable.

Understatement, manipulation and the issue of common humanity are critical to modern society as well. Therefore, the given film should be considered not only as a tour into the past, but also as a mirror reflecting the problems we are facing today (yet, the difficulties we experience nowadays might appear slightly different).

It is hard to realize that Mr. Jones is not just a movie, it is a part of people's lives, real lives. Somebody passed away too early, someone stayed in that earthly hell a bit longer and very few managed to escape.

Agnieszka Holland's film itself should be experienced as a small life, during which you sympathize, fight, hate and forgive.
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7/10
A good if brief dive into journalism during the early years of the Soviet union
impeyrules-546347 January 2020
Journalist from wales/DLG foreign secretary who discovers the famine in Soviet Russia that is being covered up. Decent film. Could have been better with more depth.
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5/10
Story worth telling ....but
House-of_cards10 February 2020
Why the obsession with black and white at stages later in the film ! It doesn't add to anything
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8/10
An avidly awaited movie
rudradeepr8 February 2020
The movie was too conventional for the story to grapple with. A tv series with more dynamics and detail would've entailed into a masterpiece. Anyways, the movie was very well made and captured all the images of the event brilliantly.
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10/10
Exceptional.
nikaustr9 February 2020
Exceptional on every level. James Norton was born to play this role. Perfect directing, perfect cast, perfect story.
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10/10
A message for our time
cekadah17 February 2020
At this writing there are 17 reviews, some with studious and knowledgeable insight into journalist Gareth Jones and his experience in the USSR during the early 1930's. Plus I don't feel I can make any better or interesting statements on this wonderful film by Director: Agnieszka Holland and Screenwriter: Andrea Chalupa. The two hour length passes quickly while you are immersed in this gripping story.

After thinking about 'the message' I took from this event is an honest journalist faces the same deaf ears today as Mr. Jones experienced in his time. Mr. Jones fell victim to oppressive government and disinterested editors only willing to listen to the voice of authority. Today a journalist who wants to bring light to corruption is oppressed by corporate overlords and government officials too occupied with fostering their shared financial gain and social power.

I feel this film will never get the public attention it so desperately deserves.
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