Gritty adaption of William Shakespeare's play about the English King's bloody conquest of France.
28 year old Kenneth Branagh really reached for the stars with **HENRY V**, his cinematic directorial debut. Quite often, a young director falls on their backside in ones first attempt at making film. Luckily for us, **Henry V** is nothing short of a triumph. Branagh's directorial approach is ambitious and confident. Filled with high excitement - quite an accomplishment when staging a 400 year old stage play told completely through dialogue. His visual style certainly are more film than stage play, and his screenplay adaptation tightens the story, even with the inclusion of a scene that was originally from Shakespeare's **HENRY IV Part 2** to clarify the story. More amazing, Branagh also portrays the Young King in a tremendous interpretation of the role. Not only does his Harry fit organically into the story, his understanding of the language makes the story relatable to today's audiences without destroying the poetry. Others in the regal cast include excellent performances by Emma Thompson and Derek Jacobi as the omnipresent Chorus. Many other performers will star in Branagh's later films as he seems to operate in a collaborative community approach. The stunning musical score by Patrick Doyle cements what will become one of the greatest director / composer relationships. Brash and operatic, the score is as capable of supporting the many battles as well as the intimate romantic scenes. Obviously, Branagh's **HENRY V** will be compared to Olivier's film - a production that has not aged as well for today's audiences. Olivier's production is bright and colorful with sets resembling a production of the Wizard of Oz. Branagh's film is gritty and dirty and brings viewer onto the bloody field of Agincourt. On a personal level, Branagh's **HENRY V** was the first film that I watched in its entirety and stayed in my seat and watched it all the way through a second time. It shows that Shakespeare can be vibrant, entertaining and beautiful.