Stone of Destiny
dir-scr Charles Martin Smith
with Charlie Cox, Kate Mara, Billy Boyd, Stephen McCole, Ciaron Kelly, Robert Carlyle, Peter Mullan, Brenda Fricker, Pauline King, Ron Donachie, Johnny Meres, Rab Affleck
release UK 10.Oct.08
08/UK 1h36
Stone of Destiny
Up to something: Cox and Boyd

carlyle mullan fricker
edinburgh film fest
Closing film:
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Stone of Destiny Based on a true story, this rousing caper adventure can't help but keep audiences engaged. It's an efficiently made, if not particularly inventive, old-style romp that works away at your cynicism until you find a lump in your throat.

In 1950, Scottish university student Ian (Cox) supports the independence movement and is determined to bring a sense of national pride back to his nation. So he decides to steal the 9th century Stone of Destiny from the British coronation throne in Westminster Abbey and bring it home to Edinburgh. With his reluctant pal Bill (Boyd), he starts to plan the heist, asking for help from a nationalist leader (Carlyle) who of course must deny all knowledge of them. Joining in are the feisty redhead Kay (Mara), the musclehead Gavin (McCole) and young engineering student Stuart (Kelly).

This is a terrific story that really should have been made by a Scottish filmmaker who could have stirred in some spiky attitude as well as a more snarky approach to national pride. Because American actor-turned-filmmaker Smith and his largely Canadian crew take a far too earnest approach, tugging on the patriotic heartstrings every chance they get. The result is a film that feels vaguely soulless, even though it moves briskly and stirs in plenty of wit and suspense, as well as a few moments of genuinely moving drama.

Fortunately the plot is riveting, and the cast is thoroughly engaging, with fine contributions from Scottish stalwarts like Carlyle and Mullan (as Ian's sceptical father), plus fellow Celt Fricker as Carlyle's knowing housekeeper. And the actors playing our young gang of adventurers are energetic and likeable, with just the right balance of ambition and cluelessness as they go through their elaborate, half-baked plan.

But there are no dark edges to any of the characters or situations. Still, the smooth, effortless filmmaking captures the period with telling detail, and the caper itself is complicated enough to keep us on the edge of our seats, even if Martin seems unsure whether to play it as a farce or a thriller and chooses to stick to the middle of the road. Even so, the rousing climax and sweetly moving final scenes will win over most viewers.

cert pg themes, some language 19.Jun.08 eiff

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall