Becket

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75%

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Total Count: 24

88%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,602
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Movie Info

A historical costume drama of the grandest order, "Becket" is the true story of the friendship between King Henry II and Thomas à Becket, a royal courtier and confidant whom Henry appoints as Archbishop of Canterbury. Once proposed for the office, Becket immediately perceives what the King does not: that his job as head of the Church will inevitably bring him into conflict with the King's interests. Until that point, he had been the King's closest friend and beloved companion, serving him faithfully in all things despite Henry's attitude towards the Church. However, he sees that as Archbishop he will be unable to take so nonchalant an attitude, and so vigorously objects to the plan. The basic theme covering separation of church and state reverberates as it did between King Henry VIII and Thomas More, 400 years later [as famously recounted in "A Man for All Seasons"] and still reverberates today. As Becket takes his duties with the church more seriously, their lifelong friendship is strenuously tested. He finds himself increasingly at odds with the King, setting off a chain of events that will culminate in tragedy.

Cast

Peter O'Toole
as King Henry II
Richard Burton
as Thomas a Becket
John Gielgud
as King Louis VII
Martita Hunt
as Queen Matilda
Pamela Brown
as Queen Eleanor
Paolo Stoppa
as Pope Alexander III
Gino Servi
as Zambelli
David Weston
as Brother John
Sian Phillips
as Gwendolyn
Inigo Jackson
as Duke of Leicester
Gino Cervi
as Cardinal Zambelli
Felix Aylmer
as Archbishop of Canterbury
Véronique Vendell
as Pretty French Girl
Gerald Lawson
as English Peasant
Jennifer Hilary
as His Daughter
Riggs O'Hara
as Prince Henry
John Phillips
as Bishop of Winchester
Frank Pettingell
as Bishop of York
Hamilton Dyce
as Bishop of Chichester
Linda Marlowe
as Farmer's Daughter
Patrick Newell
as William of Corbeil
Geoffrey Bayldon
as Brother Philip
Graham Stark
as Pope's Secretary
Victor Spinetti
as French Tailor
Magda Knopke
as Girl on Balcony
Niall MacGinnis
as Henry II's Baron
Percy Herbert
as Henry II's Baron
Christopher Rhodes
as Henry II's Baron
Peter Jeffrey
as Henry II's Baron
View All

Critic Reviews for Becket

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (18) | Rotten (6)

  • Ripe with homoerotic undercurrents -- which O'Toole mines with relish in his great hysterical performance, full of cunning, eloquence and mad outbursts.

    Mar 8, 2007 | Rating: 3/4
  • Becket may seem like a movie of yesteryear, but its timeliness brims over with rousing, meditative discourses between Henry and the church leaders on the separation of church and state.

    Mar 1, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Everything that Doctor Strangelove is -- daring and inspired, vibrant and brilliantly staged -- Becket is not.

    Feb 23, 2007 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • The picture is being re-released in 30 cities around the country before finally appearing on DVD after years of online foment from fans.The DVD is due in May, but try to catch it in theaters first. It's worth it.

    Feb 15, 2007 | Rating: B+
  • Burton is extraordinary in one of his rare good movie roles and O'Toole is regally madcap and larger than life.

    Feb 8, 2007 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
  • The pleasure of these two extravagantly gifted actors at the top of their game -- their diction! their conviction! their beauty! -- is enormous.

    Feb 2, 2007 | Rating: 3/4

Audience Reviews for Becket

  • Aug 27, 2014
    "Bend it Like Becket"! I stretch, but Beckett Media is a sporty publication, although this film is much older than David Beckham himself, so the pun still falls ferociously flat. On top of all that, this is a religiously-charged historical epic based on a French play, so it's anything but sporty. Well, at least it's less cheesy than "My Fair Lady", and while that isn't to say that "My Fair Lady" isn't good, it is to say that this film shows why the Golden Globes has a Best Musical category, because you'd think that the Oscars would be all over this. In 1963, the Golden Globes, not simply nominated, but awarded "The Cardinal" Best Picture-I mean, Best Drama, and in 1964, this film took home that same sort of bacon that the Catholics are actually allowed to enjoy, so for a while there, the Jews who undoubtedly make up much of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association were getting into Catholicism. One does have to give these two films credit for figuring out how to make subject matters dealing with Catholic archbishops interesting enough to be the basis for epics which, well, are still of varying intrigue. Hey, "The Cardinal" was compelling, and this film is pretty good, too, although it stands to be tighter, and more original, for that matter. As a '60s period melodrama set in olde England, this film could have been either unique or formulaic, and it ultimately falls somewhere in between, having some refreshing elements, in addition enough derivative aspects to be rather predictable, anchored by familiar character types who actually stand to be more recognizable. Immediate background development is a little lacking, making the unlikable traits of the leads fairly glaring, and although gradual exposition is plentiful, the performances are more nuanced than the characterization whose degree of depth is inconsistent, but generally somewhat thin, as a supplement to the melodrama more than the humanity. Melodramatics are certainly unavoidable in this adaptation of a stage interpretation of 12th century English affairs of political, religious an human natures, and storytelling is generally sound enough for you to buy into the histrionics, but their familiarity makes it easier to feel their contrivances, which aren't even extreme enough to really flare up the intrigue. This olde English romanticism is no longer relevant and is plenty dry, and it would be embraced more if it wasn't overplayed in the form of minimalist dialogue, with plenty of dramatic weight, but little action behind it to reinforce a sense of consequence, and keep momentum going. As things stand, there's something kind of flat about the direction in certain places, for although there is enough inspiration to the storytelling and acting within this intimate drama to keep entertainment value adequate through sound intrigue, when kick falls, you really can't help but feel the length of this talkative and wandering affair which runs two-and-a-half hours. The film is a little too long to not have much go on, and with considerable competence, it engages through and through, though one's investment just has to be challenged by moments of familiarity, expository shortcomings, melodramatics, and pacing issues which threaten the final product's reward value. This reward value is ultimately near-firmly secured, because as much as the film tries your patience, it engrosses more often than not, at least aesthetically. Actually, the aesthetic value of this film isn't especially outstanding, but it is solid enough to play some respectable role in reinforcing engagement value, with Laurence Rosenthal turning in a conventional, but grand score, while Geoffrey Unsworth's cinematography carries enough sweep to its lensing to make up for some shortage of flare to relatively briskly defined lighting and coloration. Unsworth's grand eye at least gives you a well-rounded feel for Maurce Carter's art direction, whose orchestration of John Bryan's production designs and Margaret Furse's costume designs sells the time both lavishly and realistically, and therefore playing an instrumental part in immersing you into this melodrama which thrives on its intimacy. Sure, the intimacy of this drama minimalizes the scope of this pseudo-epic, making it hard to deny the excessiveness of the two-and-a-half-hour-long runtime, just as conventional occasions and moderate underdevelopment make the histrionics harder to deny, and yet, this study on how great men of a romantic time interpreted politics, religion, peasants, each other and, most of all, themselves is thematically rich, with high intellectual and dramatic potential to be done justice. Peter Glenville's direction has flat spots to really slow down momentum, but where it could have been drier and duller, its thoughtfulness falls over enough consistent dramatic material to carry a subtlety and grace that draw upon the intellectual value of this melodrama, broken up by resonant moments of delicate tension which secure the engagement value of the directorial storytelling. I suppose Glenville's direction doesn't hit quite as many missteps as Edward Anhalt's writing, although this script may do a greater justice to Jean Anouilh's classic story than the directorial storytelling, rich with glowing dialogue to sustain entertainment value through all of the overt chit-chat, while characterization manages to be just meaty enough for nuanced performances to compensate for expository shortcomings. Indeed, if nothing else makes this character melodrama so compelling, it is the across-the-board strong performances in a gifted cast, from which the leads stand out, with Richard Burton being unevenly used, yet consistently engrossing in his subtle, convincing portrayal of a man of sophistication and faith who respects and challenges the questionable aspects of a loving king, while Peter O'Toole steals the show in his dynamic, intense portrayal of a man of great power and corruption who is initially charismatic in his sleaze, but grows to be a wreck when his humanity is stressed to him through betrayal and a fear of his own mortality. These two leads and their electric chemistry are the heart and soul of this intimate epic of little dynamicity, but considerable intrigue, driven by inspiration on and off of the screen which make the final product a rewarding trial for one's patience. In conclusion, there are occasions of conventions and some unevenness to the depth of characterization, while melodramatics keep too consistent to be ignored in the draggy telling of an intimate story of limited urgency, but through grand score work and cinematography, immersive art direction, sophisticated direction and writing, and effective performances, - the most powerful of which being by the solid Richard Burton and the outstanding Peter O'Toole - Peter Glenville's "Becket" rewards as an intimate portrait on the conflicts between men of religion and humanity and men of royalty and corruption. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jul 22, 2012
    In a tale of nepotism gone wrong, Henry II appoints his friend Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Caterbury but isn't prepared for the consequences when Becket takes his commitment to God seriously. Richard Burton plays Becket with a reserve and subtle conscience, and from the first moment, he makes the character profoundly interesting. He's helped by a good script that makes who Becket is the focus of the first act. Peter O'Toole is hilarious and at his scenery-chewing best, playing the madcap king with the kind of gusto that made him famous, and his third act scenes reveal a humanity - a pathos - that makes his character even more interesting. Overall, despite the fine art direction, most of Becket is a character study involving the two leads, and the acting master class that is Burton and O'Toole is enough to carry this film admirably.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Jun 07, 2011
    Becket is a fantastic period piece. It's long and some scenes are very drawn out, but it is well worth the watch. It's visually stunning and there isn't a bad performance in the film. Becket is the true story of the friendship of King Henry II and Thomas Becket. They have a strong friendship until Henry makes Becket the Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket loyalty turns from Henry to God and the King doesn't like that too much. It truly is an epic film.
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • May 07, 2011
    There are scenes that are dramatically dull and the characters endless speeches do belabor the point repeatedly, however for the two central performances of Burton and O'Toole (and John Gielgud's cameo) it is really great to watch. And while the film's themes are repetitive its still delightfully subversive in moments, especially when it suggests how easily the masses are placated by simple religious gestures.
    Alec B Super Reviewer

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