Rupert Penry-Jones in The 39 Steps (2008)

Hannay & Sinclair Bond

After returning to London, having been stationed in Africa, Richard Hannay (Rupert Penry-Jones) finds life an incredible bore and longs for some excitement. That excitement comes his way when he returns home one morning after a night of drinking to come face to face with Scudder (Eddie Marsan), a neighbour who claims to be part of the British Secret Service. Before he knows it there is a German in his apartment who shoots Scudder and soon after a policeman who wants to arrest Richard for murder. After a daring escape via the fire escape Richard heads to Scotland to try and complete Scudder's mission in order to prove himself innocent which brings him in to contact with Suffragette Victoria Sinclair (Lydia Leonard).

John Buchan's novel "The 39 Steps" has been adapted to the screen a few times and in 2008 someone decided why not adapt it again. Some might say a foolish idea considering the previous adaptations have all been good and surely another would only be setting itself up for a fall. That is unless you happen to be screen-writer Lizzie Mickery who in essence turned Richard Hannay in to James Bond and in doing so breathed new life in to the story. And in doing so making this story published for the first time almost a century earlier entertaining for a younger audience whilst still capturing the essence of the story.

Lydia Leonard and Rupert Penry-Jones in The 39 Steps (2008)

What that means is that the basic storyline is still recognizable, Hannay ends up on the run, going to train by Scotland, being mistaken for a guest speaker at a political rally and so on. But then you have the new bits such as the opening when Scudder pulls a gun on Hannay he turns around in a James Bond style to point his gun back. It is the same when he escapes and as he hangs from a fire escape he flirts with a maid with that Bond style charm to get her to help him escape. And I could go on because so many a scene plays out with touches of Bond which makes for a fresh feel especially when it comes to the action side of things which have a humorous side when Hannay finds himself with Victoria Sinclair as an accomplice. On the subject of which Victoria is also a re-imagining of a character which works well in this new style story.

That all brings me to the acting and Rupert Penry-Jones is quite simply brilliant as Hannay, infusing the character with all those touches of Bond which make this entertaining. But Penry-Jones also works well with Lydia Leonard to make for a fiery pairing with Hannay being a bit of a sexist whilst Victoria being a forthright Suffragette.

What this all boils down to is that whilst this 2008 version of "The 39 Steps" might be flawed, there are historical inaccuracies and it doesn't have the suspense of say Hitchcock's versions but it introduces a touch of the Bond spy movie to things which makes it entertaining for a new audience.