Taking a production pretty much intact from stage to screen robs it of its surprises. The cast seems to know what's coming, and so do we. There's not a single moment where you sense 'discovery' taking place.
A funny thing happened to The History Boys on the way to the screen. The players are the same, the dialogue is pretty much identical, but the vibrancy of the play -- its exhilarating immediacy -- has been muted.
The History Boys is a movie that asks questions like 'What is education really for anyway?' and asks them in an altogether witty, brainy way. It turns history into what it really is, the story of our lives.
There are no spontaneous moments on screen: The characters aren't reacting to each other; they're waiting for the cut to deliver a line they've had memorized since [the play] played the London National.
[An] exuberantly free-spirited but faithful movie version of Alan Bennett's masterful hit play about education, class, sex, love, death, memory and that often equally fantastical thing we call history.
Griffiths' brilliantly rumpled academic with recklessly roving hands is matched by the disarming Samuel Barnett as a sad-sack gay student, and the bull's-eye precise Frances de la Tour, a battle-weary standard bearer for feminist history.