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The 39 Steps (2008)

TV Movie  -   -  Crime | Mystery | Thriller  -  28 December 2008 (UK)
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Richard Hannay, a mining engineer on holiday from the African colonies, finds London socialite life terribly dull. Yet it's more then he bargained for when secret agent, Scudder, bursts ... See full summary »



(novel), (screenplay)
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Title: The 39 Steps (TV Movie 2008)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Victoria Sinclair
Sir George Sinclair
Professor Fisher
Hellory Sinclair
Captain Kell
Vicar / Wakeham
Peter Stark ...
Del Synnott ...
London Constable
Roger De Courcey ...
David Gallacher ...
Professor's Butler
James Bryce ...
Concierge at Club
Stewart Preston ...
Waiter at Club


Richard Hannay, a mining engineer on holiday from the African colonies, finds London socialite life terribly dull. Yet it's more then he bargained for when secret agent, Scudder, bursts into his room and entrusts him a coded notebook with map, concerning the impending start of World War I. In no time both German agents and the British law are chasing him, ruthlessly coveting the Roman numerals code, which Hannay believes he must crack himself. Masquerading as a liberal party pundit, Richard also gets stuck with parliamentary candidate Sir George Sinclair's sister Victoria. They must survive with the secrets and decide who they can trust and how to keep it from others. Written by KGF Vissers

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Release Date:

28 December 2008 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

39 Lépcsőfok  »

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As the film is set before the start of the Great War in 1914, the featured biplane could not display red, white and blue RAF roundels as they were not introduced until December 1914: some months after the Great War had begun. See more »


Richard Hannay: Well at least you're only a spy and not a suffragette.
Victoria Sinclair: Well, actually I'm a spy /and/ a suffragette.
Richard Hannay: Oh Lord!
See more »


Version of The 39 Steps (1935) See more »

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User Reviews

A Fresh Take On The 39 Steps
14 September 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Over nearly a century, John Buchan's novel The 39 Steps and its film versions has become something of a classic of the thriller genre. Famously filmed originally by Alfred Hitchcock, this 2008 BBC TV movie version is the fourth and most recent film version of the novel. But despite three previous film versions, this version still has plenty to offer as a thriller in its own right.

Take its cast for instance. Rupert Penry-Jones makes for an interesting choice for Richard Hannay, the archetypal innocent man on the run. Penry-Jones brings an interesting edge to Hannay in that regard as he makes believable the journey from a bored young man to someone who has the fate of a nation on his shoulders. His youthfulness also helps make him believable in the film's action sequences as well. The result is an interesting take on a familiar character.

Backing up Penry-Jones is a good supporting cast, most of whom are not what they seem. Lydia Leonard is practically perfect casting as the film's heroine Victoria Sinclair thanks both to some good writing and her excellent chemistry with Penry-Jones. There's also good performances from David Haig as Victoria's uncle Sir George, Patrick Malahide as Professor Fisher and Eddie Marsan as Scudder, the man who sets the plot in motion. There's also a host of other minor character's throughout the film who add immensely to the atmosphere of the film such as Roger De Courcey as a ventriloquist who Hannay bumps into for example. As a result, the film is well acted all the way around.

The production values are splendid as well. Of particular mention are the cinematography of James Aspinall, particularly with the washed out look used for the scenes set in the Scottish highlands, and the score from composer Rob Lane which sets just the right mood for the film. Though some have noted that there some anachronisms in the film in the forms of various cars and the particular kind of biplane used in one sequence, if like me you don't know a lot about those things, then the production values work just fine in creating the 1914 setting of the film. What more can you ask of production values then to do that? Which in a way brings up the script by Lizzie Mickery. Mickery's script owes less to the famed 1935 Hitchcock film and a bit more perhaps to the original novel, though it isn't a hundred percent faithful to it either. In a way that's a good thing as the Hitchcock film all ready has one remake following it (made in 1959). In that regard this version feels like a fresh new take at filming the novel. Mickery's script is fast paced (just look at the opening ten minutes of the film for example) with quite a bit of wit and tension. There are some predictable aspects to the film and one will likely be able to spot the traitor some time before Hannay does and the first half hour or so of the film is undermined by a rather odd decision to keep giving Hannay voice over to explain a plot that should all ready by apparent by what the viewer all ready knows. Overall though the script is a good one that shy's away from Hitchcock and sets out to do something different.

Which isn't to say this version doesn't owe something to Hitchcock. The speech hall scene for example echoes that seen in the Hitchcock film, though it is certainly different enough to be seemingly original. The biggest nod to Hitchcock comes in the form of Hannary being chased by a biplane which of course isn't in Hitchcock's The 39 Steps but his later film North By Northwest, but it makes for a thrilling sequence in this film. This version isn't Hitchcock but it pays at least some acknowledgment to his version.

What can be said of this version of The 39 Steps at the end of the day? It is a film with a leading man in top form, a good supporting cast, strong production values (if apparently anachronistic) and a good script that turns a nearly century old story into a fast paced thriller. It might not be Hitchcock's version but it is still a good thriller in its own right and a good film as well.

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