“A real-life, contemporary Robin Hood adventure that grabbed headlines around the world…”
The Stone of Destiny. The Stone of Scone. The Coronation Stone. Regardless of whatever moniker you prefer to attach to it, the stone has played an important role in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland and the United Kingdom for centuries. Stone of Destiny details the lengths a group of Scottish students were willing to go to provide the downtrodden Scottish people with a bit of national pride.
In 1950, Ian Hamilton (Charlie Cox, Stardust) earned himself free drinks for life by staging a successful heist. His prize? The Stone of Destiny, a piece of Scottish history resting in the heart of England for centuries. Stone of Destiny is based on his real-life caper and features a cameo by Hamilton himself.
The crime occurred in 1950. So why did it take more than 50 years for the story to be told? Well the answer’s in the question. The real story wasn’t told until 1992’s “The Taking of the Stone of Destiny” written by one of the perpetrators, Ian Hamilton. After he published the book it took him more than a decade to find someone he trusted to help him pen the movie as well as direct it. And that director/writer was Charles Martin Smith (Psych) an American actor/writer/director who had already directed over ten vehicles, as well as acted in countless more, by the time Stone of Destiny was ready to be shot.
Part of a political group known as The Covenant, Hamilton and fellow college student Bill Craig (Billy Boyd, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) are inspired by leader John MacCormick (Robert Carlyle, Once Upon a Time). When the group’s petition to England for Scottish national rule is denied, the lads decide that a symbolic act is needed to reignite Scottish pride.
That’s when a plan formed. They will travel to Westminster Abbey in London, then home of the Stone of Destiny which has been used as a coronation aid for centuries, and they will abscond with it. There’s a scouting trip, a montage of the recitation of facts, and then…a derailment. Craig has second thoughts and pulls out. Enter MacCormick, who knows about the plan and in fact is helping fund it, although clearly in a “plausible deniability” sort of way. He steers Hamilton to fellow Covenant member Kay Matheson, (Kate Mara, Shooter) who shores up the plan, adding Gavin Vernon (Stephen McCole, Merlin (TV)) who’ll be added muscle. He in turn brings along fellow engineering student Alan Stuart (Ciaron Kelly, Burke and Hare), who has a second car the team can use.
So many things go wrong from there it’s amazing they actually accomplished anything. And that’s why you watch Stone of Destiny: because you get caught up in it. Not only in wanting to see how the heist plays out, but also to see how they manage to make the story stretch to just over an hour and a half runtime. The pace (in the beginning especially) rolls right along, to the point where I had doubts about what the movie was going to end up being, because the heist itself is planned before the half hour mark.
While it does falter a bit, it’s still a decent movie because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. How the theft occurs will leave you chuckling in disbelief; it’d be easier to squeeze blood from it than to steal the stone today. And the filmmakers readily acknowledge the miracle this theft truly was through the light-hearted tone, which is a nod in their favor.
Stone of Destiny‘s subject matter is not something many of us across the pond are familiar with, outside of history class. The fact there hasn’t been a coronation which would require the use of the stone since 1953 further disconnects an international audience. However, the idea of national pride is certainly something anyone can identify with and helps drawn the audience in. If you’re interested in true crime dramas, historical accounts, or just want to see some beautiful Scottish hillsides, Stone of Destiny is right up your alley.
That beautiful Scottish countryside is displayed through the 1.78:1 aspect ratio which allows for the sweeping sense of the landscape to permeate. The color palette is somewhat muted, like the traditional weather of the region, but the greens are especially lush. As far as technical distractions, there was no noise to speak of, nor skips or jumps so it was bully on that front. The soundtrack was a bit disjointed at times in terms of pairing scenes with specific songs. However the Dolby 2.0 held its own and I didn’t have any balancing or leveling complaints to speak of. There are no special features.
The weakest element is the narration. I’m more forgiving of narration which bookends a film than of a continual track. Stone of Destiny has narration throughout the film but not consistently. The recitations are definitely things which could just as easily have been shown, and may have even helped flesh out the film.
Stone of Destiny is a more light-hearted romp than you might expect, but I found it to be to the film’s advantage to employ such a tone.