In a memorable line from Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, one of the lippy lads defines history as one f***ing thing after another.
What is it about the 1960s era that makes us see corruption, violence, racism and sexism through – if not rose-tinted glasses – then certainly a fuzzy lens of misguided nostalgia?
The Great Train Robbers, and especially Ronnie Biggs, were written into folklore more as lovable rogues than violent criminals.
And somehow, the Kray twins image is as much successful East End boys done good, as psychopathic gangsters.
Tom Hardy pulls off the impressive acting feat of playing both Ronnie and Reggie Kray in the new movie Legend, directed by Brian Helgeland. They may have been identical twins at birth, but Ronnie was an out-and-out nutter, and Reggie – slightly more sensible -found it increasingly difficult to control his brother’s wayward excesses.
The film is told largely from Reggie’s perspective, but voiced by Frances who is just 16 when she meets the more rational brother. They marry when she’s a little older, but as much as Reggie loves her, he can’t escape the brotherly bond, despite it being inevitable it will destroy them and everyone in their wicked web.
This is not an easy movie to watch. It’s splattered by blood and littered with swearing. But it’s a real tour de force by Tom Hardy as the twins, with an excellent supporting performance from Emily Browning as Frances, the fated young East End girl.
And it’s a little piece of 1960s history, which you can interpret as you wish.