To Kill A King

Dubious English Civil War saga

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OPENS MAY 16, CERT 12A, 102 MINS

Set following the Roundheads’ victory in the English Civil War, To Kill A King centres on the under-regarded figure of Sir Thomas Fairfax (Dougray Scott), the brilliant general of the parliamentary army to whom Oliver Cromwell (Tim Roth) was deputy. But as Cromwell rises to pre-eminence, dissolving parliament and pressing for the execution of Charles I (Rupert Everett?no, don’t laugh, he’s rather good), Fairfax finds himself, as an aristocrat, torn between loyalty to the republican cause and his own class.

To Kill A King is handsomely produced, and Roth is initially excellent as the dimly fearsome Cromwell. But the dialogue’s rather stiff?you fear someone’s going to start dropping in the odd “verily” any minute. The story of Cromwell’s ascension is bowdlerised, and Roth ends up caricaturing him as a Napoleonic figure, while too much Mills And Boon-style sympathy is asked of us for Lord and Lady Fairfax. To Kill A King is, literally, a tad too cavalier with historical truth.

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