Stone Of Destiny

Stone Of Destiny


Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Stone Of Destiny is a kidnapping caper film, fictionalising the account of Ian Hamilton QC about the capture of the Stone of Scone (pronounced sk-oon, never to be pronounced like the doughy muffin of the same spelling) from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950. Since the 9th century, the Scottish monarchy took their place on the Stone during their coronation ceremony. This was until it was taken by Edward I "Longshanks" in 1296 to Westminster Abbey to show the English power over the Scots. Nearly seven centuries later, Ian Hamilton, a political activist from Glasgow preparing to study law, enlisted the aid of three friends to break into Westminster to reclaim the Stone for Scotland.

It's a handsome movie, with plenty of acting charisma going to waste, Londoner Charlie Cox (Stardust) is an engaging enough political and criminal cipher as Ian Hamilton with an excellent accent. Robert Carlyle as nationalist leader and half-baked mentor John MacCormick steals his scenes as the speech-making politician. Peter Mullan has some fun with Ian's Disapproving Father. The quartet of friends who nick the stone are characterised clearly and quickly, even if some of their motivations turn on a penny.

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In spite of all its efforts to dress itself up as a handsome and classical Ealing-esque crime caper, Stone Of Destiny's script drowns itself in the thick soup of Nationalist pontification. Exclamations that Scotland's fire and passion "died in its sleep", and several Hamilton voice-overs, hammer this home without subtlety. And worst of all, the moment of persuading a travelling gypsy to move so the heroes can retrieve their Stone (their "symbol of freedom") from its outdoor hiding place makes the listener want to hammer hot nails into their ears.

I normally fill several pages of a notebook with quotes or notes so I can reuse them when writing the review. I didn't do this with Stone Of Destiny; it wasn't engaging enough to be worth writing notes for, and the script had no interesting storytelling surprises for me to jot down. The script divides itself into scenes such that it feels like someone's walking on stage left shuffling a set of cards saying "CHEER HERE!", "GASP IN SHOCK!", or "BOO HERE!", or most often just shuffling their feet waiting for something to happen. Only once the overall plan goes a bit tits up, does it actually lift itself from the mire of following the story breadcrumbs to have a little light fun.

By this time, of course, it's too little too late. And, fatally, it lacks a drop of real human wit, where we feel we're sharing time with people on the screen instead of a screenplay's pieces. The infrequent gags are mostly infantile, and the movie takes itself much too seriously; cynicism is shown the door very early on. The film is superbly photographed with a cloying sentimentality that belies its mixed heritage. It's exactly the kind of inoffensive and bland affair that looks its budget (a trim $12m), and hits all the story notes in its screenplay and no more.

Another sad failure, like The Rocket Post - a brief trip into shortbread-tin Scotland with stock characters. It's the kind of movie you'd be happy to show your granny, but certainly not to watch yourself.

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2008
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If Ealing were still alive... they'd probably grab this script and run with it!
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Director: Charles Martin Smith

Writer: Charles Martin Smith

Starring: Charlie Cox, Kate Mara, Billy Boyd, Stephen McCole, Ciaron Kelly, Rab Affleck, Gillian Aitken, Janine Ballantyne, Ross Bennie, Robert Carlyle, Alan Cuthbertson

Year: 2008

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK, Canada


EIFF 2008
EIFF 2009

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