The acting is well-night perfect with both Guinness and Harris superbly cast as contrasting king and conqueror. It is these two powerful players, both giving the performances of their lives, who rightly dominate the action. The director’s script — following history itself — brilliantly thrusts them center stage and cleverly keeps them there until the inexorable end.
It’s hard to keep audience interest alive when the outcome of the plot is so well-known, but Hughes manages to work up such sympathy and suspense, we concentrate all our attention on events as they unfold so fascinatingly before our eyes. The sets, the costumes, the rich details and panoply of court and parliamentary life are alone so gripping — and beautiful to behold — that occasionally historical events seem like an intrusion! And that is exactly the right approach for a writer- director to take, crowding our hearts with such an abundance of inspiring and abhorrent images and ideas, there is no time to reflect. In Hughes’ hands history is always vigorously alive, never static or blandly familiar, — let alone moribund or dull.