Director: Ken Hughes
Starring: Richard Harris, Alec Guinness, Robert Morley, Dorothy Tutin
Running time: 139 minutes
I had high expectations for this film because it stars two great and late actors who were both very talented but what I was mostly disappointed with in this film was that I don't think the acting from the actors were brilliant. It is good when it comes to action but when it comes to the story it feels sort of rushed. When the English Civil War ends it feels really rushed from then until the end. The Civil War ended about 1 hour 30 minutes and it had less than 40 minutes to try and write up and film the rest of the story with 2 hours 15 minutes duration. Well, that is what I think about it anyway. The costumes, art direction and cinematography were the best thing about this film apart from that is was pretty crap.
I wasn't that keen on neither Richard Harris as Oliver Cromwell nor Alec Guinness as King Charles I because neither actor made Charles or Cromwell very believable like they were history and lived 400 years ago. Richard Harris was better than Alec Guinness but neither actor gave me that feeling where there was any proper emotion involved within the characters like that really was England 400 years ago.
Ken Hughes' direction wasn't brilliant to be honest because it wasn't as believable as I was anticipating. The epic action scenes in the English Civil War didn't really help it very much. I wasn't that fond of the script neither because it was more like a made-up story rather than historical England. I am disappointed with saying that but it is true though.
This film won the Oscar for Best Costume Design and was nominated for Best Music Original Score but lost to Love Story. It was nominated for Best Music Original Score at the Golden Globes but lost to Love Story. Overall, Cromwell is a film that I found really disappointing. Alec Guinness was a legendary actor and his portrayal of King Charles I is at the moment his most disappointing. The late Richard Harris wasn't bad and wasn't good either but he was better. It is a film that is extremely underrated but should be considered for its technical design rather than its acting, directing and producing.
The sets are impressive in this and the battles are adequate, though I doubt anyone is really watching this these days for the battles. Just remember, open a book after reading it and clear up the details. (Look into the Rump Parliament and look at who Cromwell really was.)
Most notably Alec Guinness (Charles I) and Richard Harris (Cromwell) deliver strong performances as the prominent historical figures of the age. I was actually surprised to find that, thanks to Mr Guinness' performance, I had a great sense of sympathy for the King. I also found Cromwell's firebrand rhetoric and praising of God every five minutes to be immediately jarring. Perhaps a necessary reminder of the deeply religious roots of the civil war but nether the less disconcerting for a generation that is not used to such fanatical religious adherence.
It could be argued that the events of the civil war, both the politics leading up to it, the battles and the political wrangling after it are too vast to commit faithfully to film but I feel a stronger narrative line could be achieved than was done here. However my gut feeling is that anything short of a TV-mini series ala Band of Brothers will never do the subject justice.