It's Christmas in the court of King Henry II (Peter O'Toole). The King of France (Timothy Dalton) is visiting and wants his sister, Henry's mistress, to marry one of Henry's sons.

The three sons, Richard (Anthony Hopkins), Geoffrey (John Castle) and John (Nigel Terry) come to see who will be the king's heir and who will marry Alais (Jane Merrow). For the sake of appearances, Henry releases his wife (Katharine Hepburn), whom he has kept imprisoned for 10 years - and you thought soap operas were convoluted!

The Lion In Winter is a film made stunning by the performances of Hepburn and O'Toole. They both thrive on James Goldman's tight script. Hepburn deservedly won her third Oscar for her portrayal of Eleanor of Aquitaine. She conveys superbly the strength and vulnerability that made this woman such an inspiring historical figure.

O'Toole gives the performance of his career - yes, even better than Lawrence of Arabia. His Henry II is an immense character, whose scheming intelligence is forever burning behind his eyes. Pure brilliance.

On occasions, the supporting cast err less toward the grandiose than the hammy. More often than not this is rescued by a deft line, or an inspired delivery by another actor. These inconsistencies in performance don't spoil the film, but they do prevent it from achieving perfection.

Anthony Harvey's direction allows the emphasis to fall upon the performances, the sets, the script, without feeling the need to stamp his mark across the production. He has a tendency to overuse the zoom, but other than that, there's nothing he could have done better.

A wonderful film that you simply must see.

Reviewed on: 08 Sep 2003
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Henry II chooses an heir, while all those around him plot.
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Caro Ness *****

Director: Anthony Harvey

Writer: James Goldman, based on the play by James Goldman

Starring: Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Timothy Dalton, Anthony Hopkins, Jane Merrow, John Castle, Nigel Terry, Nigel Stock

Year: 1968

Runtime: 129 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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