"This film has been shown in history classes in both Britain and the USA, and rightfully so. CROMWELL is a powerful, albeit uneven, movie depicting the struggle between Parliament and the crown that ultimately led to the English Civil War.Alec Guinness as King Charles I is simply superb. This gifted actor brings the insecure monarch to life before our very eyes, from his indecision to his eventual desperation to save his thrown--even his slight stuttering problem. Indeed it was Charles himself, by attempting in secret to form alliances with Catholic Ireland and France in order to defeat Cromwell's army, who was the catalyst to his own demise.Richard Harris is good, but somewhat over the top, as the brooding Oliver Cromwell, the musical score is nothing short of annoying, and the movie succumbs to the gushy melodrama characteristic of the time in which it was made. But despite its flaws, CROMWELL delivers a satisfying story about a turbulent time in English history."
Overall, very entertaining
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a great student of the English Civil War and found this movie to be, overall, very entertaining despite just a few historical inaccuracies such as Oliver Cromwell being one of the five Parliament memebers that Charles I personally came to arrest ( Cromwell wasnt one of the five ). The costumes, stage sets and battle scenes, especially the cavalry charges, were without equal. A lot of the musical score was fitting and added to the atmosphere of the film. I dont believe that Harris's portrayal of Cromwell was uninspiring as previous reviewers have suggested. Cromwell, according to some historical sources, was a deep believer in freedom, both religious and private property, hence the films early reference about Cromwell leaving England for America. Cromwell was simply not known, historically, to have worn his emotions on his sleeve. Timothy Dalton's Prince Rupert was magnificent. Alec Guiness certainly looked like Charles I. Truthfully, most of the actors fairly resembled their characters.I know this film was made for mass audiences and thus needed star name appeal to sell it. But it is too bad that this most interesting period of history could not have been portrayed in a miniseries (in the way Glenda Jackson's ELIZABETH R was) with all the same actors. That way, other central characters such as Charles I, Thomas Wentworh the Earl of Strafford, Parliamentary leader John Pym and others could have been developed more fully because they are just as interesting as Cromwell. Not to mention the decade or so long struggle between Parliament and Crown that led up to the Civil War and Thomas Wentworths treachery by going from Parliaments greatest champion to being Charles I right hand man thus earning Parliaments unending enmity. Lots of great storyline potential there. Yes, it is too bad it was not made as a miniseries because so much dramatic history was left out. This film gem was unfortunately to brief. But I liked it alot!"
Our Chief of Men
blockhed | UK | 12/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A magnificent summary of the fundamental issues, and their resolution, which made the British nation what it once used to be, and was for 300 years, right up until 1945. There is obviously not the slightest hope of compressing the complicated historical events from 1640 to 1660 into 2 hours, and simplification is so inevitable as to be not worth even discussing. But the basics are presented with excellent clarity, and produced with a marvellous balance between entertaining drama and solid essentials. Guinness and Harris are both on tremendous form: the defining characteristics of Charles were vacillation and weakness, and those of Cromwell force and resolution. Both were pious in their own ways. Charles, however, thought he could do what he liked in his position because God had put him there. Cromwell didn't share this belief, and that is what makes him a great man, and a great architect of the British political values which lasted for so long. The ruthless crushing of the threat in Ireland has to be addressed, of course, and perhaps I'll add something on that at a later date. Such was the man's personality, however, that even an author from a British Roman Catholic background felt obliged to title her biography: "Cromwell, Our Chief of Men"."
Catches the spirit, if not the perfect picture, of the ECW
John McMahon | 02/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Rev. Mortimer would be glad to know, that as a high school history teacher in Virginia, USA, I have been showing "Cromwell" to all of my US and world history classes for many years. It explains why our University of Virgina sports teams are called the Cavaliers. It shows the beliefs of the Puritans/Pilgrims and why they wanted to leave England to come to America. It puts the Hobbes vs. Locke argument into the sharp relief of actual human conflict. It explains why a people would rise up in bloody conflict against a fairly reasonable monarch like Charles I. It shows the sloppiness of democracy, as portrayed by the great scenes in the Parliment. I have read widely on the Civil War and am familiar with the innacuracies. The reason that I HAVE read widely in this area is because I saw this film in a theatre as a child. This superb drama continues to inspire me, and my students today."
'I do not fear death'
Henry Platte | Boston, MA | 11/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I was required to see Cromwell for a European history class, I never imagined that it would become one of my favorite films, not about history, but about common human problems in any era, heroes and villains. I hear it's wildly innacurate. That's probably true, and our teacher pointed out plenty of innaccuracies in the segments we watched in class, but there are also many important things the film gets right: for instance, that the crowd at Charles' execution groaned instead of cheering. What makes Cromwell so great in spite of any inaccuracies, though, is its portrayal of its principal characters. Other reviews accuse Cromwell of overacting, but that's the sort of man he was really was (apparently his quote which begins with 'Why in the bowels of Christ...!' is an actual quote). Cromwell is sympathetic as a man who felt that he was compelled by neccesity, to do things which at first he found unthinkable. Charles I is equally or even more sympathetic as a human being crucified for abstract values, but who manages to meet his end with an astonishing amount of dignity. The scene of his execution almost brought tears to my eyes.
There's something about the old-fashioned cinematography in Cromwell, also, which it makes it more convincing than more recent, slicker historical epics like Elizabeth. It conveys a sense of real life and real history. Cromwell and Charles are given emphasis on the screen more by their behavior than by any trick of the camera.
The one major flaw in the film is its inexplicable ending - in which, against the background of a gothic chorus, a narrator explains what a great human being Cromwell was. The film has shown a different, more complex reality. Still, the intelligent viewer will realize that, and such a small detail isn't enough to keep this very good movie from a five-star rating."