Henry V

1989, Movie, PG, 138 mins

Review

HENRY V
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Straightforward, energetic, updated Bard. 28-year-old star-director-adapter Kenneth Branagh's spellbinding version of Shakespeare's Henry isn't superior to Olivier's 1944 version--it's different, and complementary to it.

Filmed mostly in medium and close-up shots, Branagh's more intimate version discards the pageantry of Olivier's grand spectacle; focusing on carnage and casualties, Branagh's film is strongly antiwar whereas Olivier's vision, filmed as a paean to England's greatness, was a morale builder for his countrymen embroiled in a world war. Branagh's HENRY V is also a visceral coming-of-age film, following a young playboy prince as he is forced to grow up quickly and assume the responsibilities of leadership. Throughout the film, Branagh uses flashbacks, excerpted from the earlier Henry IV plays to clarify events, and though he has pruned the 400-year-old play, all of its most memorable moments are in place and brilliantly conveyed: from the seige of Harfleur and Henry's stirring exhortation to his small army to go "Once more unto the breach," to the dramatic victory at Agincourt.

In addition to his own extraordinary performance as King Henry, Branagh elicits brilliant work from a stellar cast, including Derek Jacobi as the chorus, Paul Scofield as the French king, Ian Holm as Fluellen, Robbie Coltrane as Falstaff and Judi Dench as Mistress Quickly. leave a comment

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