The Downton Abbey movie should be considered season seven of the series. This movie is not meant to stand independent of the series.
I have been a fan of Downton Abbey from early into its run on PBS. I stuck with it for all six seasons despite them killing off my favorite character, then killing off my new favorite, and then raping my new-new favorite. Through six-season I got all the character backstory and explanation that I desired. Season six was a great capstone to the series and it could have been left there, but I am glad it wasn't.
Downton was always a visual masterpiece on the small screen, and it has been shined and polished to fill the big screen. The opening score sounds like it has been moved from a quintet to a full orchestra. This movie deserves a theatre viewing to take in the grandeur of Downton. The extra extravagance of hosting a royal visit is the perfect premise for this movie. What is more visually stunning that the overindulgence of royalty.
Each character that we know and love are given fitting side stories. Tom Branson is still somewhat the outsider to the family, but he loves them just the same. He is loyal to his in-laws above all else. The movie tries to get you to question his intentions but fails. One of the biggest letdowns in the movie is how an attempted assassination could be so boring.
In Mr. Barrow's side story, he shows his backbone and stands up for himself, leaving Downton for the duration of the royal visit. His sexuality was not explored in later seasons of the TV series so it is refreshing to see him happy. A whole new world is revealed to him and he finally seems happy. His absence from Downton makes way for Mr. Carson to shine one last time. Mr. Carson's entire life was in preparation for this visit.
As usual, it is not smooth sailing for Mr. Carson and his antiquated ways. He is shoved aside to allow the royal service staff to take charge of the house and kitchen. It is nice to see Mr. Barrow getting a little revenge on Mr. Carson after all these years. Despite Mr. Carson's protest, we all know the regular house staff will eventually overcome the royal staff so it feels a bit low stakes.
Meanwhile, upstairs, the Dowager Countess is unable to leave well enough alone. She and cousin Isobel get up to their wonderful verbal jousting throughout the film with fabulous one-liners. This time, Violet's main target is Maud Bagshaw, the person with the ability to select who will inherit Downton. Violet is portrayed by Maggie Smith and Maud by Imelda Staunton; aka Professor McGonagall and Dolores Umbridge. It is nice to see them on screen together again.
This movie wasn't needed after six seasons on television, but I am glad it was made. It was a wonderful two hours of big-screen visuals. Everything from the opening score is turned up a few notches. This movie is fan service and I am sure fans will love it. If you followed the Crawleys and their staff for years on the small screen, follow them to a theatre. Once you are done donate to your local PBS station for being the catalyst for this film.