King Henry V of England (Sir Kenneth Branagh) is insulted by King Charles VI of France (Paul Scofield). As a result, he leads his army into battle against France. Along the way, the young King must struggle with the sinking morale of his troops and his own inner doubts. The war culminates at the bloody Battle of Agincourt.Written by
Liza Esser <email@example.com>
After 4 minutes a violin string is plucked. This string is clearly one of the middle strings, either the "D" or the "A" string. However, we actually hear the sound of the "E" string being plucked. See more »
O! For a Muse of fire, that would ascend; The brightest heaven of invention; A kingdom for a stage, princes to act and monarchs to behold the swelling scene. Then should the war-like Harry, like himself, assume the port of Mars; And at his heels, leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword, and fire crouch for employment.
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This film surely must be in the frame for a number of best ever categories - best Shakespeare film adaptation, one of the best ever war films AND one of the best ever performances by a male actor. It's truly stunning to see how Shakespeare's words, which seemed dull and difficult to understand at school, can be spoken as passages of such depth, beauty and power. Not one in a thousand actors could do this convincingly - but Kenneth Branagh can.
I think this far outshines the Olivier version from 1944 (very good though that was). Branagh convinces (where Olivier does not always) as he gives a wider range of emotional responses to Henry - self questioning, compassionate, sad at the harsh realities of life. You can really believe that here is a young man who used to be a playboy now faced with having to grow up and behave as a king of England. As others have said, he gives such fire and charisma to the battle speeches that you want to march straight into battle yourself! And importantly, Branagh also convinces utterly in the romantic wooing of the French princess.
Naturally enough, the film focuses on the main actor playing Henry, but the supporting actors are also excellent. Derek Jacobi, particularly, does wonderfully in a difficult role. If I had to give one very slight caveat however, it would be that Emma Thompson (who I love as an actress), does not quite convince as a native French speaker, though she makes a good try at speaking the language rapidly. Perhaps Juliette Binoche would have been better here? But overall the obvious rapport between Branagh and Thompson (who were married at the time) is more important than any slight problems with the accent.
The only Shakespeare performance that tops this movie is seeing Branagh give a live performance on stage - I was privileged to see him (with Emma Thompson) perform Much Ado About Nothing in the late 1980s, and that's still the best I've ever seen.
Don't just see this - buy or record a copy. If you see it once, you will most likely want to see it over and over! 10/10
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