Henry V - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Henry V Reviews

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Super Reviewer
October 27, 2012
Good. But too much left out.
Super Reviewer
½ March 7, 2007
Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Shakespeare's play was his directorial debut and at the time many balked at the very idea that this young whipper snapper could dare to get in the ring with Laurence Olivier and his then definitive version. This film is a completely different proposition however, choosing to use the cinematic medium to great effect to breathe gritty, believable life into the characters and story. He is of course backed up by probably the finest assemblance of Shakespearian talent whose pedigree shines through in a faultless collection of performances, from the arrogance and politicking of the nobles to the earthy pathos of the common soldier. Even the uninitiated who can be intimidated by the seemingly inpenetrable prose should be able to follow the plot because of the clever use of performance and realism to convey the meaning of the florid dialogue, but I must admit from time to time I wished I had some Cliff notes to aid my understanding of the nuances. The battle scenes are recreated in a way obviously influenced by John Boorman's Excalibur, all sweat and blood and filth, and to echo the modern climate offers a more human portrayal of bloodshed on such an epic scale. The highlights are of course all provided by Branagh's excellent and naturalistic interpretation of Henry (although Paul Scofield's subtle performance as the melancholy King of France is near its equal), most notably his pre-battle speeches which inspire without the clodhopping patriotic manipulation you have seen in everything from Braveheart to Independence Day. His inexperience behind the camera tells occasionally as he gets a little slo-mo happy and the battle is a little confusing, but as a whole it's a great achievement.
Super Reviewer
November 29, 2008
No one on the contemporary movie scene -- or ever on the screen -- does Shakespeare better than Branagh. As both actor and director, he is simply the best. He can manage all his actors in such a way that you will understand the plays clearly, both in terms of dialog delivery and action. I don't know if this is the best job he's done, but it's at least tied for number one. If you only see one Branagh Shakespeare, make it this one. Note: If you are confused by some of the references to Henry's "former" self and his former friends, you may want to check out Henry IV parts I and II. Unfortunately those won't be Branagh projects -- at least not yet. Here's hoping he does those as well.
Super Reviewer
½ October 11, 2013
The Branaugh take on Shakespeare starts here with the film that had everyone comparing him to Larry Olivier. It is possible that we embraced this first very good Shakespearean film since Olivier a little easily. Branaugh is no Olivier after all and this film is not as good as Larry's in '44.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
December 17, 2010
People, I present to you a film so British that it is a remake of a Laurence Olivier film, and I say it like that because this thing is just too faithful to Olivier's vision of Shakespeare's vision that it just cannot be a coincidence. Okay, maybe this film isn't totally ripping off Olivier's "Henry V", but I still stand by the belief that this film marks the beginning of Kenneth Branagh's almost desperate struggle to be the new Laurence Olivier. Come on, Kenny, man, when this came out, Olivier hadn't been dead but about a couple of months, and it's not nice to outdo him at adapting a Shakespeare play this quickly. Shoot, now that I think about it, maybe Branagh has kept up this whole streak of being almost too much like Olivier over the years because he didn't want people to think that he was just riding off of the death of Olivier to get money for this film. Quite frankly, I don't know what in the world he would think that, because even with Branagh's pretty much tricking people to believing that Olivier is still alive, this film barely made its budget back, and it didn't cost but about, like, some change he found around his house or something, and most of it probably went to Christian Bale's accent coach, who must not have been paid by the hour, seeing as how I can see him struggling for a long, long time to keep Bale from dropping his English accent. Usually you can't keep clothes on kids, but in Bale's case, you just couldn't keep English accents on him, but hey, it's not like he's here very often, what with this film's being a bit too long to keep ahold of all of its character, as well as, for that matter, a bit too long in general. Man, I would love to see the looks on the faces of the people who said that back in 1989 when they saw the runtime of Branagh's 1996 Shakespeare adaptation (*cough*Olivier*cough*rip-*cough*off*cough*), which I'd imagine let them give this film even more of the appreciation that it deserves... up to a point, because as good as this film is, and as certainly better than Olivier's "Henry V" as it is, there's no denying some problems.

If William Shakespeare's plays are nothing else, they are expositorific, so of course there's plenty of developmental ramblings within the play that this film faithfully adapts, and yet, with that said, a fair bit more flesh-out could be used in this film, whose talkativeness does only so much to build characters are reasonably well-rounded by this story's end, but undercooked when it comes to the immediate development segments, and even rather unevenly used during the body, thus leaving the momentum of this to slow down, though not as much as it does when facing pacing spots that really are slow. More often than not, this film entertains just fine, and when it does, in fact, slow down, it never goes too limp, yet the fact of the matter is that atmospheric kick tends to dry up at times and leave pacing to drag its feet, distancing your engagement value, much the staginess that taint the final product with awkwardness the most. Throughout the film, you can expect to find Derek Jacobi sometimes randomly pop up in the middle of the environment he discusses when he fulfills his duties as an onscreen narrator, or rather, chorus, and although such a storytelling aspect is unique and colorful, it rarely fits, and throws off momentum that is damaged enough other intentionally stagey storytelling stylistic touches, which establish an atmosphere that gets to be a bit too objective to immerse you, and even mess with smoothness in story structuring. Very much like its 1944 counterpart by - you guessed it - Laurence Olivier, this film keeps relatively very faithful to Shakespeare's vision, in all of its stagey glory, doing very little to tighten up scenes that pack one setting to the brim with focus shifts, subplots and other pieces of layered material that work just fine on stage, but don't quite gel on the silver screen, whose overblown sequences - of which, there are oh so many - come off as uneven and repetitiously aimless as they struggle all but considerably to pad things out. Needless to say, all of this excessive bloating does a number on pacing, which, before too long, finds itself unable to sustain swiftness, resulting in pacelessness that leaves you to feel every one of this film's 137 overlong minutes. True, most every beat this film hits is a strong one, as there is enough compensation to fight back bland hiccups, but bland hiccups still stand, and they're hard to ignore, jabbing away at this ambitious project until it ends up falling short of what it could have been and, of course, what it wants to be. Of course, when it's all said and done, this film rewards, meeting every misstep with a kick, few of which are all that hard, but hard enough to keep you going, or at least milk designs money for all its worth.

At about $9 million in USD, this film's budget is hardly astronomical, especially to be that of a period mini-epic, and sure is worked with quite well, particularly by costume designer Phyllis Dalton, whose tastes make up for sparse relatively elaborate production designs by boasting enough distinct 15th century flavor to sell you on the setting, and attractively so, until we come to a climactic war sequence that isn't exactly stellar, but impresses nevertheless in its tightly putting a tight production design budget to nifty use. The film doesn't have too much money to spend on material that livens things up, but what relative handful of funds that do go into crafting compliments to the production prove to be money well-spent, coloring up this effort's substance, much like Patrick Doyle's script, which is conventional, and rarely all that upstanding by its own right, but nevertheless quite commendable in its often keeping atmospheric juice at a comfortable flow, until it, of course, really kicks in and breathes life into the film's most energetic moments. Touch-ups like the score and production value aren't stellar, but they have their moments to break up a consistent degree of impressiveness that holds your attention just fine and does justice to Shakespeare's vision, though perhaps not as much as Kenneth Branagh's script. Sure, Branagh's writing is faithful to Shakespeare's tastes to a fault, being overblown and stagey, so we're not really looking at all that strong of a script, but what is done quite right in the writing department cannot be ignored, planting just enough dynamicity and flavor into set pieces to draw your attention toward the dialogue that drives storytelling so heavily with that good old-fashioned Shakespearean wit, barely touched and complimented in an inspired fashion, and not just when it comes to writing. Branagh's direction isn't too much stronger than his writing, though it is stronger, and his writing is pretty darn good, so of course the storytelling behind this film is worthwhile, doing only so much to obscure the staginess that it occasionally augments with a dry and object atmosphere, but still keeping energy up just often enough within atmosphere to keep entertainment and engagement value from slipping too far away, and sometimes go backed by dramatic inspiration that delivers on unexpected emotional resonance. The sequence between the action climax and resolution where we, through an impressively comfortable, very lengthy tracking shot, pan along a warzone tainted with carnage to soulful chants is easily the film's most memorable and powerful moment, being so realized in its composition, with a gripping atmospheric kick that punctuates the dramatic depth of this opus richly, and while no other moment comes close to the power of that sequence, Branagh's intriguing inspiration as director commands your attention, much like his inspiration as the acting lead, for although there are plenty of good performances throughout this film, the passionate force that Branagh injects into his line delivery and presence earns your investment in him as a firm and inspiring, yet deeply human leader. Branagh's onscreen charisma is immense, and his offscreen inputs of talent are flawed, yet inspired, charging this effort with enough energy and passion to sustain your investment through all of the staginess and paceless bloating that do some serious damage to reward value, but don't quite shake it.

When the curtains draw, a promising vision is left damaged by overt faithfulness to William Shakespeare's underdevelopment and uneven character usage, as well as the staginess that distances subjective engagement value, and packs scenes with too many extensive layers of material for focus to keep steady long enough to bring smoothness to pacing, which ends up being too thin for the final product to be as compelling as it could have been, but not so thin that the film isn't at all compelling, or rewarding for that matter, as there is enough production and musical value to liven up the rich substance that, when carried by inspired writing, direction and acting, makes Kenneth Branagh's "Henry V" a spirited effort that could have been more, but still offers quite a bit.

3/5 - Good
Super Reviewer
½ September 8, 2011
I will admit that I have not read William Shakespeare‚(TM)s Henry V. However, I like to think that Kenneth Branagh‚(TM)s take on the play certainly counts. Branagh, in his directorial debut, brings one of Shakespeare‚(TM)s histories to life with great panache and necessary grittiness.

The play follows the rise of King Henry V and his conquest of France. Branagh, though, adds a few pieces from Henry IV for some additional context and to reveal more about Henry V. We see King Henry V rack up victory after victory as his troops grow fewer and fewer. Sick, wounded, and outmatched, Henry V rallies the troops with the famous St. Crispin‚(TM)s Day speech and they storm into the Battle of Agincourt.

There is not much to say about the script. It‚(TM)s Shakespeare. But noteworthy are the additions Branagh made in his adaptation. The addition of Robbie Coltrane in the cameo as Falstaff was excellent and saddening at the same time. The flashbacks to Henry V‚(TM)s childhood really add depth to an already great play. Branagh also did an amazing job at directing the battle scenes in the movie. He does not hold back and heads full steam into these battles. He shows off the grittiness of war by featuring the penultimate battle in a muddy field.

The acting is also terrific. Branagh‚(TM)s delivery of the St. Crispin‚(TM)s Day speech is exquisite and inspiring. You wish you could jump right into the screen and join in the battle. There are also a number of great supporting performances. Robbie Coltrane, Ian Holm, Brian Blessed, Emma Thompson, in a very limited role, and watch for a young Christian Bale as a kid soldier.

This adaptation is often compared to Olivier‚(TM)s version of Henry V. It is unlikely to say that one is better than the other. However, Kenneth Branagh‚(TM)s Henry V is definitely one of the better modern adaptations of a Shakespearean play and is definitely one that will be enjoyed not just by lovers of Shakespeare, but lovers of movies in general.
Super Reviewer
½ August 28, 2007
One of the best Shakespeare film adaptions ever. Kenneth Branagh pulled tripple duty here, adapting the screenplay, directing, and playing the lead role. Branagh throws out the normal rules and plays the film as violent and realistic interpretation of warfare in the middle ages.
Super Reviewer
February 21, 2015
It's probably good if you're into Shakespeare. It went right over my head.
Super Reviewer
½ September 6, 2012
Worth watching just for Branagh's rousing Agincourt speech.
Super Reviewer
November 12, 2008
So, with Shakespeare's script it always had the potential to be awesome. But, Branagh and the incredible cast who wanted to work with him made this film AMAZING.

Just fabulous, really. All Shakespeare fans, history buffs, Francophiles and Anglophiles should watch this.
Super Reviewer
August 26, 2008
A revision of Shakespeare's dubious play.A blast indeed.Branagh crams disastrous options,backfires a bloody fury to the hypocricy of the court and throne,ultimately creating one of 1989's most aspiring films and an equal challenger to Olivier's first great read.
½ March 15, 2015
The most cinematic and epic Shakespeare adaptations ever to be put on screen. The fact that this is Kenneth Branagh's first film as director shows how advanced he was before his time. Branagh is also great on screen. The way he says Shakespeare's words and how he makes his actors say it is why his versions are always the best. This is the definitive Shakespeare adaptation.

Grade: A
½ February 15, 2008
Relatively poor attempt at Shakespeare, compared to Branagh's other works, mainly because it felt like it was a filmed stage production rather than a film.
December 9, 2007
The final battlefield scenes are four-plus star work, but the rest feels heavier than it needs to. Still, some excellent touches in taking a play in Elizabethan English and with almost no stage directions and turning it into a comprehensible, flowing movie.
½ November 23, 2007
The realism here is forced by Olivier's earlier version, but I think it works, especially in the gritty battle scenes. Derek Jacobi's modern Chorus character is quite good showing an unromanticized look at war.
½ November 4, 2007
the "St. Crispin's Day" speech makes me cry everytime I see this movie. Another favorite line is "I will teach her how much I love her, and that IS good English."
June 3, 2007
The best film version, in my opinion, of one of Shakespeare's finest histories. I still get goosebumps during the St. Crispin's Day speech. "...we few, we happy few, we band of brothers...for he who sheds his blood with me today shall be my brother..." It doesn't get any better than that. Kenneth Branagh's direction and acting in the title role both cement his place as today's finest Shakespearean filmmaker.
July 16, 2007
Branagh's directorial debut is a smash hit. Sir Laurence Olivier's version is considered the best, but Branagh's competes well with it.
½ June 25, 2007
Another Kenneth Branagh film staring Kenneth Branagh. I only gave it two and half stars was one, the story was good but it dragged on. Two, Christian Bale was in it. Otherwise I didnt really enjoy the story, actually if I remeber correctly I didnt even watch it all because I was bored.
½ June 5, 2007
If Henry's "Breach" and "Happy Few" speeches don't move you, then something is wrong. Branagh delivers them like no other.
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