An alert, rousing interpretation of "Henry V," Branagh beats down the doors of high art and drags the sleeping bard into the light of modern day.
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Most astounding, though, is the power of the film's leading actor. While Branagh's direction is forthright and articulate, his acting is brash and flamboyant.
One of the things that make [Branagh's] Henry V so thrilling is his audacity in trying to turn it into an antiwar play - a view that would have astounded Shakespeare. Astonishingly, he pretty much brings it off, emerging with steadily growing power as the young king who isn't afraid to bloody his hands. [15 Dec 1989]
The cast - including Derek Jacobi as the modern-dress chorus, Paul Scofield, Judi Dench, Ian Holm, Emma Thompson, and Robbie Coltrane in an effective cameo as Falstaff - is uniformly fine without any grandstanding.
Big and pretty, vigorous, thoughtful, this Hamlet expands the story with helpful flashbacks.
What works best in the film is the over-all vision. Branagh is able to see himself as a king, and so we can see him as one.
Mr. Branagh has made a fine, rousing new English film adaptation of Shakespeare's ''Henry V,'' a movie that need not apologize to Laurence Olivier's 1944 classic.