Action / Biography / Drama / History


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April 15, 2015 at 11:43 PM


Peter O'Toole as His King / King Henry II
Richard Burton as Becket / Thomas Becket
Siân Phillips as Gwendolen
Edward Woodward as Clement
2.06 GB
Not Rated
23.976 fps
2hr 28 min
P/S 7 / 28

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by alexkolokotronis 10 / 10

Towering performances by 2 actors at the zenith of their powers.

Becket is one of my favorite movies. It is possibly the most underrated movie of all time and I consider it one of the top five greatest movies. It has everything for everyone and is done at such a high level too. The center point of this movie is definitely its writing.

The writing by Edward Anhalt is the best I have ever seen and that is no exaggeration. Line after line I was just in awe. Every line had so much meaning and just made more and more anxious on what would happen next. It was funny, witty, intelligent and serious all at the same time. I have never seen such an amazing blend of so many different themes and working so greatly. This is usually how movies falter not succeed but this movie was like five movies mixed into one yet very enjoyable mostly in part of the writing. Many people like to memorize lines from the Godfather series, but I believe this movie contains so much more than even the Godfather. The Godfather is more like one of those quote pamphlets with 10-15 pages. Becket is not just like but really seems to be a quote book with a couple of 100 pages filled with quotes. Still this movie was not done to impress with just good lines it has a real story to it. The story was so amazingly strung together along with its amazing quotes this script seems to be absolutely perfect.

The acting was at its best. Peter O'Toole gave a performance only second to his performance in Lawrence of Arabia. He displayed everything that a king has especially that of Henry II. He displayed the immaturity, the constant swaying of opinion according to how he feels and at the same the stubbornness that a king has not accepting what anyone else has to say, except for his close friend Thomas Becket, at least for a while. He portrayed such a complex and just down right strange character. Then there is Richard Burton who was nothing short of greatness either giving one of his best performances as well. He of course plays Thomas Becket who reluctantly stands up to his friend and his king, Henry II in the name of equality and for basic civil and human rights. His performance was the most inspiring performance I have seen from Richard Burton. In the movie he has surprised at his own transformation but yet proud of what he was doing because it is the right thing to do. Yet there is still more. John Gieglud gave a great supporting performance as King Louis the VII of France. He just added to the laughs and provided a much needed extra character and voice to add something a little different and gave some diversity as well. I believe he was very much overlooked for such a great performance, this not too shocking though when you are playing next to Burton and O'toole. As they say in sports he was the X-factor.

The directing and editing was also add its height. The directing by Peter Glenville was just spectacular when it came to art direction and costumes to the camera shots of the castles and ceremonies all the way back around to the cinematography. I have read that nobody knows how good a movie was edited except for the editor and director. In this case you can clearly see that this movie was edited together perfectly, with its great music and sound effects to stringing together all the scenes together to near perfection.

It is so clear that this movie was worked on very carefully and precisely and was not made just to make money but to provide a message and a purpose. It is just a sham that this movie lost best picture to My Fair Lady in a year that had so many great movies including Zorba the Greek, Dr. Strangelove, Fail-Safe, The Pawnbroker to even Mary Poppins. Yet Becket seems to have everything that undoubtedly what those great movies have in every technical aspect but most importantly in the multiple messages and themes that it has making it one of the best to have ever been conceived.

Reviewed by kurt_messick 10 / 10

A meddlesome priest

The tale of Thomas Becket has had many incarnations over time. T.S. Eliot's 'Murder in the Cathedral' is but the most recent acclaimed literary treatment; each revisitation seems to draw new elements forth from the story. Edward Anhalt won the Oscar for best screenplay (adapted from other material) for this film. This film shows Henry and Thomas Becket roughly equal in age (at variance from history, for in this time the age difference of 15 years is practically a generational difference). Becket is shown as being a guide to Henry, but less from a master/pupil standpoint as it is a clever diplomatic with a utilitarian and almost Machiavellian sense about him. Henry is presented as coarse and unrefined, uneducated and in need of assistance, but historically this is unlikely.

Becket is played admirably by Richard Burton; Henry II is portrayed by Peter O'Toole. Both were nominated for the best actor Oscar, but neither won. In addition to these nominations and the best screenplay award, the film was nominated for nine other Oscars, running the list from costumes, music, directing, best picture, and a best supporting actor nod for John Gielgud, whose cameo as the King of France is rather interestingly presented.

Indeed, the movie has a remarkable realistic feel to it, particularly for a film from the 1960s, when cinema was as likely to portray stylised and idealistic images of the past. The sets are in bare stone with a minimum of ornamentation, as would have been the case in Plantagenet times; likewise, the ceremony around the royal person is much less grand, and the church rather grand, which is both accurate and serves to highlight the underlying conflict of the story in the film.

Becket is portrayed as a man of ambiguous loyalties -- a man of principle who has yet to find principles worthy of loyalty. Finally, in the role of archbishop, he finds a calling from the honour of God (and in so doing is not unlikely many priests who see their path to ordination as the means of spiritual grace; indeed, many are disappointed that the faith does not come with the office). Whether Thomas Becket actually experienced a spiritual conversion that made him a strong champion of the church, or in fact saw the power of the church as a means to an end of dominating the country, we will perhaps never know.

In the film, Becket is often disparaged as being a Saxon; this is perhaps overstated, given his Norman lineage, which is never hinted at in the film. While he does not come from Norman nobility, he is far from being a simple Saxon. Burton's portrayal of Becket shows the change from worldly chancellor to spiritual archbishop in unsubtle terms. Even so, there is an ambiguity that plays out marvelously in both his performance, and the reactions of the other characters who constantly question his sincerity.

O'Toole's performance is not as polished as Burton's; when he plays an older, wiser Henry II in 'The Lion in Winter' four years later, the acting is much more dramatic and effective. It perhaps goes without saying that Pamela Brown does not make the same impression on the screen as Eleanor of Aquitaine as Katherine Hepburn does in the later film, but Eleanor is an incidental character in Becket in any case.

Music in this film is not a prominent feature -- various trumpet and brass flourishes announce events or major scene changes in parts; a lot of chant (long before Gregorian chant achieved popular status) accompanies church scenes -- indeed, I credit this film for giving me my first real taste of Gregorian chant. The scene with Sian Phillips as Becket's love Gwendolyen is accompanied by period string instruments -- again, Phillips is a remarkable actress who is under-utilised in this performance.

Done in a flash-back manner, there is a resolution in the film -- Becket is dead, made a saint, honour is satisfied as the King does penance, and the people are happy. We know what is going to happen, but then, anyone with knowledge of history would likely know the story already. In fact, Henry's reign was rarely without challenge, but he was always powerful, and much more effective after Becket's death than before. Reigning for nearly twenty years after Becket's death, he left a very powerful Western European coalition of lands that soon fell apart, and embroiled England and France in war for centuries later. The tensions between church and state carry forward to this day; while the specifics of the challenges faces Becket and Henry II are very different from issues today, the principle of the relationship between church and state is far from definitively resolved.

Also, the side-line issue of class warfare and racial prejudice (teased out with subtle nuance between the Normans and Saxons, who, ironically, look exactly the same on the screen) are addressed in an interesting, pre-civil rights sort of manner. This issue is never resolved in the film, as indeed it wasn't in the 1960s, either.

This is an intriguing film, with great acting and great production values, and an interesting story that, even if not completely historically accurate, does not alter the history so much that it becomes a parody of the subject.

Reviewed by Miguel E. Rodriguez 9 / 10

Lingua Supremis

Ah, words. To paraphrase Henry Higgins, they are the pillars of society. Language is the means by which emotions are expressed, wars and love affairs are started and ended, and friendships are struck -- and melted down. "Becket" is a movie in love with words, their eloquence and, in some cases, majesty. It's a movie about friendship and loyalty, God and country, and the dynamics that occur when one tries to mix them together. I cannot think of movie so in love with words in recent memory; the only one that comes close (perhaps even superseding it) is "A Man for All Seasons." This is the proverbial film to sink your mental teeth into. It is cerebral, challenging, controversial, and tragic. If you've ever had a friend grow more and more distant no matter how hard you tried to keep things right -- this is for you.

And that is all I have to say about that...

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