'Henry V' (The Hollow Crown) - TV Movie Review

In 2012 the BBC did a series of Shakespeare plays for TV called "The Hollow Crown," consisting of Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V. I found Richard II a particularly dull play when I read it many years ago, so I started this series with the more interesting Henry IV, Part 1. I wasn't impressed, and so skipped over Henry IV-2 (which I don't like as much either) to Henry V which is one of my favourite plays of Shakespeare's.

As in Henry IV, Part 1, Tom Hiddleston stars as Henry - now King, having set aside his wild ways. Unlike the previous play, I know the text of Henry V, and so I can tell you that they've utterly slaughtered the text (I particularly noticed it in the Chorus's speeches, which I'm most familiar with). To what end I'm not entirely sure: we still end up with a 138 minute running time, perhaps because of the lingering - and weak - cinematography.

All movies are a visual representation of a huge series of decisions: selection of actors, what text to include and cut, how to frame shots, how to edit. The best thing about this version of Henry V is Hiddleston in the lead - and he's only good, not outstanding as we might have hoped. The pacing is possibly the worst thing, along with the frequent flip-flops of mood (although those can be laid at Shakespeare's feet with his bizarre ideas of comedy in the middle of a war). Representative of almost everything wrong with the movie was the short appearance of Richard Griffiths as the Duke of Burgundy - who appears to broker a deal near the end of the movie between Henry and the King of France. His slow and apparently intentionally distinctively ponderous way of speaking certainly brings your attention to him - and the actor in the role, which adds absolutely nothing to the play and manages to take a great deal away from it.

If you have to see this, Hiddleston is working hard and does a passable job as Henry. But better not to see it at all.