Nickel Review of “Downton Abbey”

Nickel Review: 5 Categories, 5 Words
Feature Film Review of “Downton Abbey”

Cinematography: steadfast
Score & Sound: staunch
Art & Wardrobe: sumptuous
Story: stagnant
Acting: stringent

Nickel Rating: 3/5¢

Cinematography: Despite the number of Directors of Photography on any extended series (#6seasonsandamovie), the cinematography of Downton Abbey remains steadfast throughout. They will open the episode with a sweeping one-shot, guiding us through the Abbey’s vast volume of corridors, highlighting the high-life of the Crawleys and noting the network of servants down below. Then, we’ll move into the traditional two-shot and dirtied close-ups of noble talking heads.

Score & Sound: The staunch score sets the stage superbly, seamlessly settling its spectators into the socio-culture of the 1910s & 1920s (sorry!). When the strings and piano kick in, you know Downton is on. The sound design goes unnoticed in a good way, operating like an audio phantom with completely believable polished pots, scrubbed shoes, and clopped cantors throughout the Abbey.

Art & Wardrobe: There is no other word that encapsulates the sheer scale, grandeur, and frivolous extravagance of the production design than sumptuous. This is clearly where the production budget went. The elegant Abbey grounds, exterior, and some interiors are provided by the great Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England. The costuming radiates the nobility and signifies the servants in a perfectly period-appropriate package.

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Story: With all this grand production value, the story stays stagnant. Hardly anything matters at Downton Abbey, because it will all be resolved in the end. Sure, some characters unexpectedly pass away as the actors look to secure new gigs, only to be readily replaced with a clear carbon copy. It’s not all negative; it’s a consistency you can count on. There aren’t too many tonal shifts throughout the series and the film, but it’s ideal for a weeknight with a bowl of popcorn.

Acting: Similar to the story, the performances are a bit stringent in the sense that they rarely stray from their center. Perhaps limited by the regal stage, the characters hardly explore more heightened emotions, to the point where they may even have out-of-character reactions in an effort to stay collected. There will be shouting and tears and the like, but not without long swaths of monotony to break it up. Even Maggie Smith, who nailed her role’s humor, is reduced to one-off zingers fairly quickly.

Nickel Rating: 3/5¢: I enjoyed the series and the film far more than I ever expected to at the onset. In fact, I only started the series after misremembering a recommendation to watch Handmaid’s Tale, but I’m certainly glad I did. If you need an even-keel series to watch with some fun twists, you’re in for a ride.

Warm Regards,
Nick Candido

1 thought on “Nickel Review of “Downton Abbey”

  1. Marina says:

    Love this one! If they made a show of *just* the art / wardrobe / set design, I’d still watch it. They did a beautiful job.

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