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

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

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.