Jamie McShane in Busman’s Holiday (Photo: Smithard Communications)
★★★ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Austin Smithard
STARS Jamie McShane, Ettore Nicoletti
The press material for Busman’s Holiday notes that it was completed just before the COVID-19 outbreak, thus disrupting its planned festival run and subsequent theatrical release. Well, join the club: Thousands of movies found themselves in similar situations, all wrapped up with nowhere to go. But with this film, the coronavirus mention makes sense. Here is a movie in which the protagonist travels over 20,000 miles around the globe, in effect serving as our tour guide for one final romp before the planet shut down.
Yet Busman’s Holiday isn’t a documentary, a National Geographic-styled travelogue showcasing the wonders of the world. Instead, it’s a combination of an expansive mystery and an intimate melodrama, with its central character a New York cop who’s asked to track down a missing relative. Michael Busman (Jamie McShane) is the lawman, and the teenage Suzy is the MIA. The adopted child of relatives in Ireland, Suzy went on her own world tour but has since disappeared off the map. Worried that something awful has happened to her, her parents (Zeff Lawless and Pauline O’Driscoll) hope that their Yankee relative will follow in her exact global footprints and eventually find her alive and well.
And so off goes Michael, journeying from Ireland to Norway, Italy, India, Tanzania, and Australia. At each stop, he interrogates those who hung out with Suzy, including an outdoor enthusiast (Jens Christian Boskov Lund) in Norway and a chef (Ettore Nicoletti) in Italy. And with each person, he gets to play both prying detective and concerned relative, hoping to gather valuable intel that will help him locate the missing girl.
McShane’s performance as Michael Busman is an interesting one. A permanent fixture on television — shows over the years have included Bloodline, Sons of Anarchy, and 24, and he can presently be seen as Shelly Metcalf in Netflix’s Mank — he is first glimpsed in bed, and the performance that follows suggests that the character (or actor) never fully wakes up from his slumber. But McShane’s understated turn works for this character, a wary and weary cop whose low-key demeanor relaxes people while paradoxically keeping them on guard. Michael has a habit of staring just a moment too long, which further keeps those whom he’s questioning constantly trying to figure him out.
Among those Michael encounters is a young man named Ku (Ashutosh Gaikwad), and their relationship is the best one in the movie. Affable and intelligent, Ku serves as Michael’s guide during his stay in India, seeking to help his employer find clues as to Suzy’s whereabouts. McShane and Gaikwad enjoy an easygoing rapport, and it’s amusing to picture this pair populating more conventional movies, traveling the globe while solving all manner of mysteries. As for the mystery in this film, it’s resolved in a surprising and affecting way.
If some of the dialogue in Busman’s Holiday comes out awkwardly, that’s one of the few areas in which the movie ever stumbles. From a technical standpoint, this is a handsome and confident film, carried along by lovely music and frequently breathtaking cinematography. There are some shots so unbelievably gorgeous, it might seem they were created with the help of CGI. But, nope, everything here is on the up-and-up, serving as cinematic snapshots of the awesome beauty and majesty of the natural world. It’s a nice reminder during these claustrophobic, quarantined times.
(Busman’s Holiday is now available on Amazon Prime, iTunes, and other streaming platforms.)