To Kill a King
4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
to kill a king It's interesting that this relatively well-known chapter in British history has so rarely been filmed (just Ken Hughes' Cromwell, in 1970). So this involving and beautifully made film is like an entertaining history lesson. Pity it isn't more exciting on screen, but never mind. It wisely centres on the relationships in the story, which makes it much more personal.

This is the story of Thomas Fairfax (Scott) and his troubled relationship with Oliver Cromwell (Roth) in the mid 17th century. The English Civil Wars have just ended, and Fairfax and Cromwell are feted as war heroes. But even under house arrest King Charles I (Everett) is fighting, and he soon turns Parliament back in his favour, which causes Fairfax and Cromwell to split over what they want to do next. Do they execute the tyrant king or work with Parliament for a diplomatic solution? Meanwhile, Fairfax's wife (Williams) is not taking a back seat.

This is an astonishing story--moving, emotional and so relevant it's frightening to watch. Scott and Roth give terrifically gripping performances that make these historical figures real human beings--both wise and troubled, not merely heroic or villainous, although the choices they make are very telling. And the support from Williams and especially Everett is excellent. Williams' Anne Fairfax is a feisty and strong character, not remotely relegated to the wifely role; while Everett's King Charles is fiercely arrogant, believing he's entitled by God to be as brutal as he wants to be, even though we can see beneath his bravado. Meanwhile, amid the impeccable production design Barker directs the film with a kind of muscled elegance that fits with the story. The one complaint is that for a story about war and violence, there is very little actually happening on screen; the film consists of a series of conversations, focusing on the political manoeuvrings rather than the more physical tensions. That said, the concentration on people and inter-relationships is compelling and far more meaningful, really, than yet another adrenaline-rushing swordfight.

cert 12 themes, violence 17.Mar.03

dir Mike Barker
scr Jenny Mayhew
with Dougray Scott, Tim Roth, Olivia Williams, Rupert Everett, James Bolam, Corin Redgrave, Finbar Lynch, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Patricia Kerrigan, John-Paul Macleod, Adrian Scarborough, Jeremy Swift
release UK 16.May.03
03/UK 1h42

The two musketeers? Cromwell and Fairfax (Roth and Scott) plot the next phase in their revolution...

scott roth
everett williams
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... to kill a king "A fantastic film! For a low-budget film the costumes and scenery were excellent in fact you probably wouldn't notice that it was low budget! Not sure about the historical accuracy but it is a good story, strangely poignant and actually quite moving in places. A film has to be good for me to want to watch it twice but I would have been happy to watch it again straight away! If you enjoyed Elizabeth you are going to love this!" --Adrian Smith, Newport, South Wales 17.May.03
2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall