Richard Harris in Cromwell (1970)

Rebel With a Cause

Having grown tired of seeing the country he loves destroyed by the whims and policies of King Charles I (Alec Guinness), Oliver Cromwell (Richard Harris) is planning on leaving the country with his family for the New World. But Cromwell's mind is changed and decides to stay behind to mount a campaign against the monarchy and those who care more for their own pocket and glory than for the commoner. As Cromwell's campaign gains speed it leads to King Charles I to rise up from his security to tackle the challenge to his position.

Maybe it is just me, maybe I just didn't get history when I was at school but something seriously went wrong during my school days as whilst I am pretty sure Cromwell was covered in a history lesson I remember nothing which was taught me. As such my knowledge of Oliver Cromwell before watching this 1970 movie could be summed up by saying that I knew he lead a rebellion and his methods were often brutal. In truth I learned more from watching "Cromwell" because it made me look into the facts and maybe they should consider using movies more in history lessons to get students interested in the story and then get them seeking the real story and not just the one portrayed in the movie.

Timothy Dalton in Cromwell (1970)

With that little moan done with I have to say that "Cromwell" is a thoroughly entertaining movie which is what is the top of my agenda when I watch any movie. There is a real epic quality to this movie which draws you in but never feels overly staged so that scenes featuring hundreds of extras are not drawn out in a look at me style. It makes the movie about the story and the people rather than production. Now of course I have no idea how true to the facts that "Cromwell" stays but it delivers a story which flows and is detailed enough without feeling laborious despite its 139 minute running length.

The key to the success of "Cromwell" whilst partly laying with director Ken Hughes for making a movie which appeals to non history buffs is down mainly to Richard Harris. The sense of rage which Harris gives Cromwell in pretty much every scene makes him come across as extremely driven and constantly angry which is captivating. In fact whilst "Cromwell" features Alec Guinness as King Charles I as well as many other recognizable actors such as Timothy Dalton it is Harris' performance which makes the movie.

What this all boils down to is that as a piece of entertainment for the masses "Cromwell" works and it is an epic movie without the over staged feel you usually find with historical epics. Whether or not it works for history buffs is another matter as I would imagine the facts have been moulded to work as entertainment rather than as a history lesson.