Movie Review 2008 #41: To Kill a King

A dramatic rendition of the story of Oliver Cromwell and his friend Sir Thomas Fairfax, in the lead up to the deposal of King Charles I in the 17th Century. To Kill a King stars Tim Roth, Rupert Everett and Dougray Scott.


Americans have a limited view of their own history, and so it would not surprise me if a poll of Americans would reveal that the majority of Americans have no idea that England has had several civil wars. As for me, even before reading the history, I first was introduced to the Roundheads and Cavaliers in a Choose Your Own Adventure book, of all things.
So I know a little bit about the story of Cromwell going into this dramatic rendition of the events that lead up to the death of Charles I and the establishment of the brief English Republic. The movie centers around Sir Thomas Fairfax (Dougray Scott) General of the Puritan army and friend to Cromwell. Roth plays Cromwell, the heart and soul of the Puritans.
Everett plays Charles I, the king whose self-confidence and excesses threaten to remove the crown from his head…and his head from his body.
I was somewhat disappointed. The movie has a strong Royalist bias, for one thing.
Cromwell is painted early and often as a psychopath. (The choice of Roth to play him was not lost on me). Early on, he nearly kills a man senselessly and needlessly. This characterization continues throughout the movie. The movie, too, depicts the trial of Charles in a short and perfunctory manner, which dilutes the performance of Everett in the role. He’s simply not given a lot to work with here, as the movie focuses on Fairfax and Cromwell. And the center of the movie, Fairfax, is portrayed by Scott in only an average performance.
Even as there were so few female performances in the movie, I thought Olivia Williams did all right as Lady Fairfax.
The direction of the movie, I thought, was poor to middling. Especially when the movie does anything other than characters talking or conversing in a room, the cinematography reveals itself to be underdone at best. (One scene of Fairfax rushing through his house is particularly bad but its only one of the more egregious examples).
The movie does gets points in my book for tackling subjects and characters which don’t get much cinematic depiction. Still, this movie doesn’t rise much above the level of an average made-for-tv movie.