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The Lion in Winter

The Lion in Winter

Director: Anthony Harvey
Cast: Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Length: 2h 14min

Synopsis: In Britain in the year 1183, King Henry II is an elderly King with three sons, all who want to inherit his throne. Henry has a favorite son to succeed him but he won't commit on his choice of an heir. His estranged wife, the Queen also has a favorite son she wishes to place on the throne. The two monarchs use their sons as pawns in a power game for the throne.

Review: One caveat: this is NOT a film that you can set back and vegetate to. It demands your full attention as it's dialogue rich and very complex with interwoven plans to get one of the three sons onto the throne.

A young Timothy Dalton (King Philip II of France) and two of King Henry II sons,
Geoffrey (John Castle) and John (Nigel Terry).

The two leads, Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn are amazing. These two thespians are masters of the theater and give vivacious performances. It's amazing to see them together.

One thing I noticed was how real the sets looked. The castles looked real, they should, as they were real! The sets gave a cold and austere atmosphere, which matches the hearts and motivies of the King and Queen.

It must have been cold because in one scene with Hepburn and O'Toole I could see Hepburn's breath. They did a lot of on-location shooting for both interiors and exteriors. They shot the film in France, Wales and Ireland. All this attention to detail and realism, made the film seem...well, real.

The Lion in Winter is not an easy film to watch. I found if I didn't pay close attention I would miss bits of dialogue and lose my place in the ongoing, plans-within-plans. The dialogue is very stage like and reminded me of a modern adaption of a Shakespearean play.

I do love historical period pieces but this film is really about cleverly written verbiage. Really the things they say are very witty and roll of the actors lips like fine tuned prose.