The Lion in Winter

"Excellent"

The Lion in Winter Review


There's something terribly fascinating about the ruthless intrigue which takes place within a royal court. Think of the shifting allegiances in the recent Elizabeth or the diabolical conspiracies and ingenious assassinations of those ruthless Frenchmen in Queen Margot. Ah, yes -- those elaborate costume-dramas where the powerful survive by wit, cunning, a chess player's penchant for strategy, and the indelible art of the double-cross.

Watching these cinematic treats is nothing short of delicious. Since revenge is a dish best served cold, it seems appropriate that the grand dame of these films takes place in the bleak midwinter of 1183, when the royal family has gathered for the Christmas holidays.

The Lion in Winter (newly released on DVD) deftly sets the stage. Powerful monarch Henry II, ferociously embodied by Peter O'Toole, has decided it is nigh time to decide which of his three sons will become his successor. He favors his youngest son, John (pouty Nigel Terry) whom he loves with all his heart. However, his iron-willed wife Eleanor has other plans for the eldest son, Richard the Lionhearted (young and hot tempered Anthony Hopkins).

Since Eleanor is played by the magnificent, authoritative, and fiendishly clever Katharine Hepburn, the outcome will be a result of power, politics, and conflicting wills. Naturally, the allies shift and provide counterassaults. Stakes grow increasingly high as they play out their games until it no longer becomes a game at all.

Screenwriter James Goldman effortlessly translates his play to film, keeping the rich and intricate dialogue without sacrificing the wonderfully intense drama. It's easy to get lost in the shuffle of the costume-drama, feeling in over your head with political babble and those long, intricate names. All those bearded faces can start to blend together. The Lion in Winter remains uncluttered because it cares more for the layered, character driven subtext of its scenes than bogging down in unnecessary historic detail.

The element of royal intrigue, present and accounted for, takes a back seat to the emotional tug of war between Hepburn and O'Toole, where the issues of trust, love, and honor are at stake. Those issues become larger than their three squabbling, petty children -- and thus the film becomes more human. That's why this film is considered a classic, dwelling on the desire to thaw the human heart.

The cast is truly in top form. Hepburn and O'Toole play off of each other beautifully. Hopkins resembles Russell Crowe transformed into a raging bull, charging into every scene only to be cut short by Hepburn's wit. A serpentine Timothy Dalton co-stars as the child king of France, making one ponder why he never became a fine actor instead of the answer to a James Bond trivia question.

Released in 1968, The Lion in Winter doesn't feel dated. With twists and turns 'round every corner, it is every bit as modern, sexy, serpentine, and sharp witted as Elizabeth. While many place it upon a pedestal as a classic, it at least earns its proper place as a ripping good yarn.

The lion roars.



The Lion in Winter

Facts and Figures

Run time: 134 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 30th October 1968

Distributed by: Nelson Entertainment

Production compaines: AVCO Embassy Pictures, Haworth Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 28 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 8.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Anthony Harvey

Producer:

Starring: as Henry II, as Eleanor of Aquitaine, as Richard, as Geoffrey, as John, as Philip II, as Alais, Nigel Stock as William Marshall, Kenneth Ives as Queen Eleanor's Guard, O. Z. Whitehead as Bishop of Durham

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Advertisement
Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.