He ruled a massive empire...and fought a mighty war! Kenneth Branagh, Paul Scofield, Derek Jacobi, Ian Holm, Emma Thompson and Judi Dench star in this heroic, action-packed epic based on the timeless play by William Shakes... more »peare. "Magnificent, passionate and steeped in powerful emotion" (The Washington Post), Henry V is a "stunning," (Leonard Maltin) Oscar¬(r)-nominated* adventure that takes its place amongst the greatest war films of all time. Having recently been crowned King of England, Henry (Branagh) commands a massive invasion to assert what he believes is his legal right to the throne of France. But a mighty army stands in his way‚?¶and the young monarch must rely on untested reserves of courage and cunning as he personally leads his outnumbered forces into a desperate battle for the honor and glory of the British Empire.« less
"This is a sweeping statement, but true nonetheless: I believe that Kenneth Branagh's HENRY V is the greatest screen adaption ever done of Shakespeare. Period. Better than Olivier (although he was great in a very diferent way). Better than any version of Hamlet (even Branagh's, which is the best of the Hamlets). Better than anything else.Why do I say this? Simply because no other film adaptation of Shakespeare has captured the essence of what the Bard was trying to say while adding a modern perspective in the process, all in a manner that is readily accessible to a mass audience. Yet that is precisely what this film does. By sheer genius, Branagh was able to present HENRY V in all of its nationalistic glory, just as Shakespeare wrote it, while at the same time adding an anti-war footnote that serves both as counterpoint and commentary on the Bard's message. The contrast betwen the St. Crispin's Day speech as presented here (in which we are made to feel the real power behind Shakespeare's words) and the gritty, realistic presentation of the battle itself which follows is proof of my assertion. It's all here: Lessons on history, loyalty, and the qualities of leadership, all wrapped in a fiercely entertaining package. Branagh's great accomplishment is to bring the piece to life without the slightest bit of stuffiness or anachronism, and even to add his own touch to an unapproachable masterpiece. This, his first film, remains his crowning achievement. I think the Bard would approve."
"O for a muse of fire ... "
C. ANZIULEWICZ | Spring Hill, WV USA | 06/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I couldn't agree more with a reviewer below who suggested that high school English teachers would do well to put away the Shakespeare books and get their students to watch films like this. How can ninth graders possibly appreciate The Bard by poring over blocks of flowery text? Shakespeare needs to be seen, performed by actors who understand the cadence and meaning of the language, in order to be appreciated. Like most other people, I was forced to read plays like "Julius Caesar" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in high school, and I just DIDN'T GET IT at the time. It was only until I was an adult and saw Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of "Henry V" that I realized what a genius William Shakespeare really was. For some odd reason videotape copies of this excellent film have been virtually impossible to find in recent years, so imagine my delight when I found out it soon to be re-released on DVD. I was quick to place my advance order, for "Henry V" is one of those rare films that one can watch repeatedly and appreciate even more after each viewing. Older film adaptations of this play, such as the one featuring Laurence Olivier in the title role, seem to pale in comparison, if only because of the gritty realism Branagh brings. King Henry's threats outside the gates of Harfleur border on horrific, and his "Feast of St. Crispian" speech to his men before the battle of Agincourt is perhaps the most soul-stirring call to arms I have ever heard. In contrast is a funny and charming scene in which Henry attempts to win the heart of the French Princess Catherine (Emma Thompson). Yet for all the hard-fought and glorious victory Shakespeare presents, he concludes his play with a subtly-worded indictment of war and an afterword about how so much of what Henry conquered was lost in later years. This is one of my favorite movies. If you have never given that much thought to the works of William Shakespeare, watch this movie. I am confident you'll realize what a truly remarkable literary voice he was."
Jonathan T. Smillie | 09/16/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This may be the best Shakespeare film ever made. In 1942, Laurence Olivier delivered a jingoistic, stylized wartime production of "Henry V" that nonetheless stood as the standard interpretation. Nearly fifty years later, Kenneth Branagh's film appeared not only as a powerful and amazingly accessible recasting of the text, but a serious examination of the nature and the costs of the war that was Henry the Fifth's only real achievement. Although studded with a fine array of subsidiary characters, "Henry V" is essentially a one-man play, and Branagh's performance informs and naturally influences all of the rest. His character has most of the lines, and he delivers them with a refreshing naturalism and candor that re-infuses the humor into the funny bits and cuts a lot of the potential for stilted jingoism out of the patriotic and warlike ones. If the real Henry's delivery of the St. Crispin speech was anything like Branagh's, it's no wonder the English won. Slogging through the mud and rain of Harfleur and Agincourt with Branagh is a masterful supporting cast, including the incomparable Judi Dench as Mistress Quickly, Brian Blessed as a marvelously solid Exeter, and Ian Holm, wonderful as the irreverent and sarcastic Fluellen. On the French side, Paul Scofield's King is weary and indecisive rather than weak and mad; Michael Maloney's Dauphin is entertainingly arrogant, and Emma Thompson delivers a small but charming performance in playwright-broken English and much better French than Shakespeare likely spoke. Tying it all together is Christopher Ravenscroft, who invests the herald Mountjoy with a sympathy that extends to both sides, and a phenomenal showing by Derek Jacobi as the earnest, mocking and informative Chorus. "Henry V" was released and went to video before the heyday of production for DVD, and as such, a "deluxe edition" has not been produced- this disc contains no making-of documentaries, no in-depth interviews with the cast, no online screenplay. But at least in this case, that's all for the best. The film is stunning enough on its own to need no such accompaniment, and its magic is thereby undiminished."
Branagh at his best!
J. N. Mohlman | Barrington, RI USA | 01/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Unfortunately, Kenneth Branagh's career thus far has been somewhat hit or miss, but "Henry V" is a solid hit. In fact, it is far and a way the best film adaptation of Shakespeare I have ever seen, surpassing even Polanski's "Macbeth". Through the use of lavish sets, beautiful costumes and old fashioned blood and guts battle scenes, Branagh brings the work alive in a way no one else could have. I particularly enjoyed his conception of the narrator as a modern day man wandering around the sets in between takes. Furthermore, the cinematography, is outstanding. By using many tight shots, Branagh captures the feel of a play being acted out. Branagh himself offers a mind-blowing performance as Henry, bringing tremendous emotion to the role. Finally, "Henry V" features, to my mind, the greatest original score ever recorded for a movie.While the DVD doesn't offer much in the way of features, it does bring you the film in beautiful widescreen with outstanding sound, so you can experience the film the way it was meant to be. This is a must have for any DVD collection."
Patricia A. Powell | gladstone, nj USA | 09/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Branagh combines the best with the best. Shakespeare's brilliant writing is combined with Branagh's brilliant directing, and cinematography; and Doyle's superb music is combined with the superb acting of Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh, Brian Blessed, Paul Scofield, and Christoher Ravenscroft to make this history come alive on the screen. If you don't know the play, this production will introduce you to one of the most inspiring of Shakespeare's histories, Henry V. It is a story of a warrior king, who initially appears to be manipulated by 2 clergy (Canterbury and Ely) into asserting England's claim on France. As the story unfolds, it becomes uncertain as to who has manipulated whom. Perhaps, Henry, the pious king, needs the blessing of the church; perhaps, Henry, the clever king needs the financial backing of the church; perhaps Henry, the politician, needs a scapegoat if things don't go well. He hardly seems weak, manipulated, and reluctant as he delivers the Stint Crispin's day speech.before the battle of Agincourt. His 12,000 men are outnumbered 5 to one; they are tired, and face fresh French troops on the morrow and Shakespeare has King Hal say."We few, we happy few, we band of brothers For he today that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile This day shall gentle his condition And gentlemen in England, now abed Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaksThat fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."The battle that ensues is as bloody and confusing as D-Day. No one is sure who has won the day until the herald, Montjoy, approaches King Henry to request a truce so that the French claim their 10,000 dead. The English have lost only 500. I think that Shakespeare is always about character. This is what can make us care about a long dead king whose triumphs did not extend beyond his reign. It can make us tune in a 20th century ear to a beautiful speech pattern that is long gone. And, when Shakespeare is brought together with the considerable talents of the film makers involved in this Henry V, it is genius in motion."