Red Joan

Judi Dench is rarely bad in any film, but this isn’t one of her better efforts. It’s probably not her fault  – she’s not given nearly enough to do, playing an elderly suburban women tending her roses when the police arrest her for treason.

The film flashes back to Cambridge in the 1938, when, as a super smart physics student, Joan (played rather too dowdily by Sophie Cookson) fell for a charismatic communist called Leo (Tom Hughes) and his glamorous friend Sonja. 

Joan also falls for her professor (Stephen Campbell Moore) when working on the secret atom bomb programme as the war begins Sworn to the Official Secrets Act, Joan becomes swept up in a game of  deception, smuggling in a micro camera to snap documents and formula.

The Cambridge flashback stuff is sadly not sexy or exciting enough, while Judi Dench doesn’t have much room for nuance when all she’s got to do is sit in a police interrogation room and protest her innocence.

Directed by Trevor Nunn, it has a whiff of what we used to disparagingly call “TV” about it, although of course TV these days would never countenance anything as pedestrian and bland as this. Red Joan? More like Beige Joan.