Sunday, February 18, 2007


Busy, busy Peter Morgan

By Edward Copeland
A week from today, Peter Morgan could win an Oscar for his screenplay for The Queen. Even if he doesn't, odds are he will have helped the winners of both lead acting trophies to their wins, since he also co-wrote The Last King of Scotland. On top of that, his hit play in London, Frost/Nixon, will soon debut on Broadway and has already been optioned as a feature. Morgan certainly has reached a career boiling point and another example premiered on HBO last night in the form of the film Longford starring Jim Broadbent and Samantha Morton.

Longford tells the true story of Frank Pakenham, the 7th Earl of Longford, whose conversion to Catholicism led him during his long tenure in the House of Lords to make frequent visits with prisoners in an attempt to help them any way he could, saying that he found visiting prisoners one of the most rewarding things he ever did.

His missions of mercy hit a bump in 1965 when he responded to a letter from Myra Hindley (Samantha Morton), part of a notorious pair convicted for truly heinous crimes committed against five young children. Frank finds her not to be the monster the press has painted her as and spends years trying to get her a parole hearing, alienating his family, including his wife (Lindsay Duncan, miles removed from her role as Servilia on Rome).

However, he ignores warnings that Myra might be using him, especially when they come from her partner in crime Ian Brady (a great performance from Andy Serkis, freed from the digital bondage of Gollum and King Kong).

The actors are superb across the board, especially the always amazing Broadbent. While there certainly have been better HBO films, Longford does tell a quite interesting one as a script by Peter Morgan shows someone who seems to have some keen insights into the workings of Britain's upper classes.

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