Red Joan (12A)**

Dir: Trevor Nunn

With: Judi Dench, Sophie Cookson, Alfie Allen

Runtime: 101 minutes

REMEMBER the case of Melita Norwood, the 87-year-old exposed as a Soviet spy? Hard to think that such an astonishing tale was the inspiration for this dull plod of a drama, but there we are.

The story opens with the titular Joan (played by Judi Dench) receiving a visit from Special Branch. Taken to the local station for questioning about breaches of the Official Secrets Act, Joan assures her barrister son that there is nothing to worry about. But as the action shifts from modern day London to wartime Cambridge and the race to invent the H-bomb, we see that all may not be as it seems.

The back and forth robs the film of the momentum any thriller needs, and Nunn seems determined to have his heroine live up to the notion that spying is a boring game consisting of little but filing and taking photographs. We never get a sense of why Joan acted then as she did, and the older Joan is not allowed to make much sense either, other than saying she wanted no more war. About as thrilling as watching red paint dry.