To Kill A King


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Was Oliver Cromwell such a nasty? According to scriptwriter Jenny Mayhew, he was in the Saddam/Uncle Joe mould.

It is 1645 and the Civil War has ended in blood and rage. The streets are filled with wounded and King Charles is under house arrest. Members of a corrupt parliament are ready to make deals with whomsoever has anything to offer. Charles's son is in France, waiting for his moment. The hero of the hour is Sir Thomas Fairfax (Dougray Scott), a land owner from Yorkshire, who led the victorious people's army.

Cromwell (Tim Roth) is a little man, who has weaselled his way into becoming Fairfax's deputy. Success and the support of the devout and surprisingly nasty Puritans goes to his head and he takes charge, as Fairfax spends too much time with his wife (Olivia Williams). The first thing to do is stifle democracy and the next is to chop off the king's head. Fairfax, the effective soldier but hopeless politician, watches horrified as a reign of terror takes root.

This could have been another Elizabeth, full of intrigue, betrayal and devious alliances. Instead, it's as clunky as an old wheelbarrow. Big scenes in big rooms look unnatural. The fires are always blazing, never in need of another log. The conversations have weighty words that sink to the bottom of your mind. Corin Redgrave, as Lady Fairfax's father, and Rupert Everett, as the king, are the only ones who feel as if they lived there. Roth rants, Scott looks troubled and Williams is a modern lady, pretending to be the daughter of an Earl.

Mike Barker directs without any feel for the period. The film lacks imagination in almost every department. The buildings may be stately, but the script cuts history to size.

Reviewed on: 15 May 2003
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Power struggle in 1645, as Oliver Cromwell instigates a reign of terror in England.
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Jennie Kermode **1/2

Director: Mike Barker

Writer: Jenny Mayhew

Starring: Tim Roth, Dougray Scott, Rupert Everett, Olivia Williams, James Bolam, Corin Redgrave, Finbar Lynch, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Jeremy Swift

Year: 2003

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK/Germany


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