January 16, 2012 -- This film is based on the true story of a small band of Scots who broke into Westminster Abbey in London on Christmas Day in 1950 and stole a big rock called the “Stone of Scone.” As the film notes, it is just a rock, but it is also an important symbol for Scotland. The stone was used for centuries in the coronation of the Scottish kings of old at Scone Abbey in the village of Scone, Scotland. The British stole the stone in 1296 and used it in their own coronation ceremonies to symbolize British rule over the people of Scotland.
The ringleader of this little band of Scots was Ian Hamilton (played in the film by Charlie Cox of the “Downton Abbey” TV series). As a staunch supporter of an independent Scotland, he was devastated by a political setback when Scottish home rule is rejected by the British Parliament. Hamilton decides to take bold action. He wants to revive the sagging spirits of his fellow Scots by bringing the Stone of Scone back to Scotland. He sees this as an important symbol of Scottish pride. The real Ian Hamilton has a cameo role in this film.
Hamilton manages to talk his best friend, Bill Craig (Billy Boyd of the “Lord of the Rings” films) into helping him with the scheme. The two college students start doing their research into the stone, and where it is kept and how it is guarded. Hamilton makes a trip to London to scout the stone and to plan the theft. At the last minute, Craig backs out, afraid he might end up in prison. Hamilton is quickly able to recruit more people to help him with his scheme.
He recruits a fellow Scottish independence activist, the beautiful Kay Matheson (Kate Mara of “Iron Man 2”) and another student, the big, beefy Gavin Vernon (Stephen McCole of “Last Orders”) and the quiet Alan Stuart (Ciaron Kelly) is a last minute addition because he can bring his own car to London to help with moving people, and the stone. The four people in two cars head to London to steal the stone. Things start going wrong immediately. Matheson gets sick, Hamilton is caught and released by a security guard. The police almost arrest all the conspirators after a suspicious woman reports them for suspected car theft.
Cold and dispirted from sleeping in their cars (they are broke and don't have the cash for lodgings) the group is ready to give up by Christmas, but they decide to try again. The resulting raid on Westminster Abbey looks like a scene from “Keystone Cops” with students running frantically all over, car keys being lost, a policeman nearly discovering the plot, the Stone of Scone (which weighs over 300 pounds) breaking into two pieces and a host of other problems.
One of the nicer scenes of the movie (some of which was filmed in Canada, probably because it was financed in part with Canadian money) has the group going to a pretty little British glade to pick up the Stone of Scone where they hid it after the theft. A gypsy (probably a Tinker, a Scottish Traveller) is found sitting on the stone and Alan Stuart explains to the man why they want to haul away this particular stone. Robert Carlisle of “28 Weeks Later” stars as John MacCormick, a Scottish politician who finances the scheme, and Peter Mullan and Juliet Cadzow are very good as Hamiton's parents. Academy Award winner Brenda Fricker does a nice job as Mrs. McQuarry, who works for MacCormick.
This is a very nicely made movie. Although it was filmed in 2007, it is just now being released on DVD in the U.S. by Green Apple Entertainment. It appears there was an earlier DVD release of this also. The 2013 DVD is basic with just the feature and a trailer. No subtitles and no surround sound, just Dolby Digital stereo. It is in widescreen (16x9) format. The movie rates a B.
Much has changed since 1950. The Stone of Scone is now back in Scotland, at Edinburgh Castle where I saw it on a trip to Scotland a few years ago. Technically, it is on loan, and can still be used in royal crowning ceremonies in London. Scotland was once independent of England. It was under British rule in 1950, but seems to be heading back toward independent government again in recent years. Unlike some previous attempts at independence, this latest drive seems peaceful.
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