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Jonny Lee Miller
Disgusted with the policies of King Charles I, Oliver Cromwell plans to take his family to the New World. But on the eve of their departure, Cromwell is drawn into the tangled web of religion and politics that will result in the English Civil War. Written by
Marg Baskin <email@example.com>
It is to be admitted that Oliver Cromwell (a.k.a. THE LORD PROTECTOR, "Old NOLL") was a great figure in British history. But Cromwell was a flawed hero. He did rebel against his liege king, Charles I, and voted for his monarch's execution. He also truncated Parliament, when he found it impeded his own reforms. His treatment of Irish Catholics, while typical of the ruthless massacres of religious opponents in the period of the Thirty Years War (1618 - 1648), is still a stain against his fame. Still, in the period that he was the dominant figure (1644 - 1658) he rebuilt the British army and navy, restored Britain to major power status, and actually did one act of surprising religious toleration - he allowed the Jews to return to England in 1655, a reform that Charles II decided not to undue when he was restored to the throne five years later.
Such a career deserves a careful movie. CROMWELL is not that film. It does do well in showing King Charles I (Alec Guinness) as a untrustworthy individual (though one driven to such actions because of his need to maintain his rights as monarch). It does make one serious howler regarding Charles I and his trial for treason. Charles may have been a liar and betrayer at times - but Sir Edward Hyde (who was a leading supporter of his, and would be a statesman in his son's reign and the father-in-law of the future James II) did not testify at Charles's trial as a witness for the prosecution.
Such glaring errors are frequent in the movie (for example, Prince Rupert was not dismissed so callously by his uncle King Charles - Rupert was a very fine cavalry leader, and would remain a fixture in English society when Charles II was restored). The subtle acting of Guinness is not matched by Harris, who rants and raves throughout the film - even in the closing moments talking about his intentions to create better schools and laws. Charles and Cromwell are two fascinating characters, and both deserve a better film than this as the sole film about the English Civil Wars (except for Vincent Price's THE CONQUEROR WORM) to come out.
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