Branagh at his best
This film is a superb rendering of one of Shakespeare's most popular history plays, and concerns one of England's most popular monarchs. No wonder then, that Branagh would choose to popularize him even further in this brilliant adaptation starring a cast of the greatest English actors to tread the boards. The film features the talents of Derek Jacobi, Paul Scofield, Judi Dench, Ian Holm, Richard Briers, and is the film where Branagh and his future wife (and future ex-wife), Emma Thompson would meet first.
The familiar story of the King who conquered at the Battle of Agincourt is brilliantly performed here, and all of the conflicts at the heart of the story are illuminated by Branagh's performance. While many may find Shakespeare inaccessible, Branagh does a superb job of serving up emotions, both as an actor and a director. As Henry, he plays up his character's ambition, jealousy and zeal rather than becoming bogged down by political terminology. As a director, he does a superb job of highlighting the inner turmoil of each character without once slipping into the pretentious Shakespearean tones so many school children have learned to despise over the years.
This production also does a superb job with the more comical bits of Shakespeare's text. As Henry woos Katherine, the French princess, they engage in a battle of wits and words that has both romance and touches of comic genius. As Henry roams the camp dressed as a commoner on the eve of battle, his railings against soldiers who loudly denounce the king do not take away from your affection for Branagh's Hal, but make you rather appreciate the man behind the crown, and this jewel of a film.