Academy Award nominee Agnieszka Holland brings to the screen the extraordinary and powerful story of the real-life Welsh journalist who uncovered Stalin's genocidal famine in Ukraine, which killed almost 10 million during The Holodomor of 1932 and 1933. Gareth Jones (James Norton) is an ambitious Welsh journalist, who gained fame after his report on being the first foreign journalist to fly with Hitler. On leaving a government role, Jones decides to travel to Moscow in an attempt to get an interview with Stalin himself. Hearing murmurs of government-induced famine, Jones travels clandestinely to Ukraine, where he witnesses the atrocities of man-made starvation. Deported back to London, Jones publishes an article revealing the horrors he witnessed, but is accused of being a liar by those who have an interest in silencing him. As the death count mounts, Jones has to fight for the truth.
As the blurb states, in this piece Agnieszka Holland tells the important story of Welsh journalist Gareth Jones who uncovered Stalin's genocidal famine in Ukraine in the early 30s. And it is the extended section of Jones' journey to Ukraine which is easily the strongest part of the film, with the post-apocalyptic nightmare depicted with minimal dialogue and including some powerful, soul-stirring touches shown without sentiment.
Unfortunately, much of the rest of the film is rather plodding and pretty obvious, and there are some pretty awkward touches such as an ill-judged attempt to shoe-horn George Orwell into proceedings; even during the Ukraine section there's rather one too many unnecessary melodramatic elements which of course only serve to undermine the full of horror of what is taking place. The film as a whole also plays fast and loose with the historical record, and whilst I've no problem in principle with this, it is a bit odd given the wonderful source material at hand - there's so many details in Jones' real-life diaries and newspaper reports which you would have thought would have worked well on screen. So all in all a well-intentioned piece but something of a missed opportunity, I fear.
Based on a true story we follow a journalist into Ukraine uncovering Stalin's ruthless disregard for human life as people starve to feed Moscow. Not a revelation in itself but the movie paints a picture of suffering and how the lid was lifted on the propaganda the Soviet Union put out about how wonderful life was under a communist dictatorship.
Not a thriller but a serious study of courage and dedication. A fitting tribute to the type of journalism we all need even now; behind enemy lines and face to face with war zone dangers. I finished the movie with a deep regard for the profession and the dignity of Gareth Jones and his mighty pen.