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Time Out saysThis triumphant take on the Crookback king is as different from Olivier's '50s historical pageant as chalk is from malmsey. It starts in some vague, post-WWI civil-war period: a ritzy function, a jazz band, a crooner belting out lines from the wrong author - Marlowe! But the ambience soon assumes the fractured pomp of the original, superbly realised in the remastered southern landscapes: Brighton Pavilion, St Pancras turned into a seaside palace, the Armageddon of Bosworth Field played out with Battersea Power Station as a backdrop. The reasoning behind the film was to bring classical actor McKellen together with a director who has avoided the Bard; the result is a fresh, unified vision which may add lines and make cuts, but does a fine job of turning Shakespeare's grand design into a veritable world at war. With Scott-Thomas' loveless Lady Anne fixing up in the back of a Rolls; Downey and Bening as out-of-favour American Nevilles; Broadbent as a pucker, pissed-off Buckingham; and Hawthorne as a sonorous Clarence pacing his last steps amid rain and concrete, the piece is awash with talent and imagery. McKellen is a marvellous demon king: unctuous, snarling, taking the throne like Hitler at a Nuremberg rally. A seamless, high-octane thriller of power and politics, one for today and tomorrow.
Cast and crew
Michael Elphick, Adrian Dunbar, Nigel Hawthorne, Bill Paterson, Jim Broadbent, Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Robert Downey Jr, Maggie Smith, Jim Carter, Dominic West, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Edward Hardwicke