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I expected to be bored to tears by this film as I assumed it would be in the same league as The Lion in Winter (1968), which contains over the top performances that somehow do not entertain. Fortunately the scenery chewing performances here, from two of Britain's greatest thespians, are fantastically entertaining as Peter O'Toole in particular is an absolute delight to watch as he completely dominates the film. No, the story is not incredible but the inclusion of heavy homoerotic undertones and the spirited performances keep the film going and despite the long running time, at 148 minutes, I was never bored listening to the rapid fire dialogue that was at once witty and ridiculously campy.
Norman King Henry II, Peter O'Toole, has a close relationship with Saxon turned Norman Thomas Becket, Richard Burton, who struggles to express emotions while indulging his friend's rowdy behavior. Henry appoints his friend to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury because of his deep love for him and his belief that Becket will follow along with what he wants. Becket finds God and goes against Henry's tyrannical ways in an attempt to help the poor and follow the laws set by God. This hurts Henry who fears a rebellion against him but he is unable to let go of his friend as he loves him more than his wife and children. Becket finds refuge in France after several attempts on his life are made. Henry implores him to return to England and support him but is rejected and driven to madness. Eventually Becket is murdered but Henry regrets this decision and is saddened by not having the man he loves alive.
The homoerotic passion that Henry has for his very close friend is made clear almost immediately as while they have both been presumably canoodling with a young woman Henry directs his attention towards his friend. Later he will yell at a woman who we presume Becket has slept with to "Get out" and then witness him lie down in Becket's bed, we are left to assume that Becket will later join him. It is made clear that Becket does not return these feelings quite as strongly as he does not care about anything before discovering his religious calling. The theatricality with O'Toole announces that he loves Becket is an experience in itself as the rejection of his lover causes him to have a heart attack of sorts and attack his family. O'Toole yells at his wife, Eleanor of Aquitane, that he "Hates his children" after she protests that by bearing him offspring she has contributed in some way. Moments like these, when O'Toole is too much of a rascal not to love, make you side with our supposed villain more than you should but without O'Toole and the razor sharp dialogue this film would be nothing.
Fortunately those two elements are enough to make this film absolutely captivating as you can't tear your eyes away from his hypnotic eyes and get a strange thrill when he berates his innocent wife and children with a cutting comment. I must note that Burton does excel in that he never tries to equal his counterpart and is comparatively subtle and subdued, only highlighting the crazed mania of our lead even more. Burton was famously not served well by his film roles because he appeared in a lot of horrid films like The V.I.P.s (1963), The Sandpiper (1965), Cleopatra (1963) and The Robe (1953) but this was a movie that allowed him to display his brilliance. He is moody and soulful and everything that he received credit for in Look Back in Anger (1959) as well as having incredible chemistry with O'Toole. Unlike the disappointing The Lion in Winter I can see why these two figures would be attracted to one another and the two actors don't seem to be just playing themselves. Some would argue that O'Toole goes to far but I would say that is what makes the film worth watching and in terms of this genre of Religious Epic I have never been more entertained than I was by this film.
Because I don't understand Dr. Strangelove (1964) yet I have to say that I would call this film the best of the 1964 Best Picture nominees.
One of the great all-time classics - based on the true story of Henry II & Thomas Becket, brilliantly played here by Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton.The magnificent script pits the two men against one another in an epic battle of wills with tragic consequences. A rare opportunity to see two of the most extraordinary actors of our time go head to head.
The best movie score ever composed!
King Henry II of England comes to terms with his affection for his close friend and confidant Thomas Becket, who finds his true honor by observing God's divine will rather than the king's.A famous feud that became famous 12th century history of England. Peter O'Toole's first role as King Henry II before The Lion in Winter (1968 film).
This is a clear exercise in why historical films shouldn't be treated as just history lessons. It managed to take a fairly worthy premise and bludgeon it to near death with an overall lack of urgency or stakes, an unbearable reliance on lengthy passages of circular dialogue, and a permeating feeling of disinterest exuded by nearly every cast member other than Peter O'Toole. And, try as he may to inject this thing with as much scenery-munching vim and vigor as he can, it all really matters naught in the end.
It doesn't get any better than this.
Please forgive me, but history was never my strong suit. It seems if I was more of a student of history I might have known what to expect in Becket. Instead, I viewed it as a wholly concocted script and kind of judged it based on how effective that script was for me (not taking into account any of the actual events from history books.) Becket is probably one of the most forgettable films I've watched in a long time. The one thing that will stick with me are the performances of Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole. They certainly make it a film worth watching. Sadly, I didn't feel the story rivaled the acting. It seems that the plot is set up to tell us about 2 close friends and how politics & religion can drive a wedge between them. However, it never really seemed that Becket had any true affection for His King. Instead, I felt like he was the typical servant who feigned loyalty but spent most of his time reluctantly cleaning up the master's messes. I figured this was an ideal setup for a truly powerful fight between the two when they were placed at odds with one another, but instead it was a sudden devotion to God that drove Becket, and his actions became soft almost like he actually cared about Henry. That's not to say that this isn't an interesting or effective way to tell the story, just not the story I was hoping to get. By the end I was losing interest in the characters and their quarrels, and since they spoiled the death of Becket at the beginning there was no real suspense to anything. Now, only days after watching the film, I struggle to remember most of the scenes. I do like both actors and they certainly committed to these roles, but I just wanted a more engaging story with characters that would grab me, and I don't feel like I got that here.
Excellent historical drama focusing on the complex relationship between fiery English king Henry II (a fabulous Peter O'Toole) and archbishop Thomas Becket (Richard Burton). Entertaining and pacy, with two acting heavyweights in their prime, Peter Grenville's dramatisation of Jean Anouilh's stage play is a splendid screen adaptation and a history lesson well worth catching.
An authentic presentation of the Becket controversy, led by memorable performances by O'Toole and Burton.
saw it in theater when it came out. Great subject and movie.