Madness ¦ British History Challenge #22-25

Wow. Twenty one films in and we’re up to the 1700’s already. It’s only three hundred years from the present but we’ve got an awful lot to pack into that time. We’re picking up the story in Scotland in 1713… I had a brief outline but it wouldn’t upload so you’ll have to lump it.

#22: Rob Roy

General Opinion: A simple yet absorbing film about cattle and outlaws.


Now this a story all about how one man’s life got twisted upside down… and  became a scottish outlaw by declaring war on the English aristocracy. Now where have we seen this idea before??? hmm… Nope can’t think. Anyway- this isn’t the Walter Scott version of Rob Roy, which I initially thought it was, this is a version that’s based on the real history. For the most part it stays true to life though some characters are made up and it is probably more than a little compressed timescale wise though. The last half an hour or so is more than a bit made up… Ok it’s completely fabricated, but the rest of the film, despite a few minor niggles here and there, mostly pays attention to the facts. Also, there is a slight tendency to demonise the English in this film, but really there are only two English characters and a few soldiers so really it’s demonising them and not the entire country. Let’s not forget also that Rob Roy was a supporter of the Jacobites and he is the main protagonist so a little bit of demonising is to be expected. Also, it’s not on the same scale as a certain other film about a Scottish outlaw which was released only a month after this one.

That aside, what about the film? It’s not about a man defending his nation. It’s not about a man rising up against oppression. It’s not a revenge piece… Ok in some ways it is but that’s besides the point I think. This film is about a man’s honour and what he does to restore it. It’s not complicated in the slightest. The simple plot moves along at a fairly brisk but gentle pace. It’s an involving, enjoyable and watchable film that cuts to the chase and gets to its point. It might take a while to get into the main plot yes, but that doesn’t matter as the script seems to make talk of cattle rustling and clan rivalries interesting, somehow. It’s a good script. It isn’t hashed and it feels natural. It suits the films pace and quality.

And as for the cast? Liam Neeson makes for a better Scottish outlaw than Mel Gibson ever could in the wildest of his dreams. Jessica Lange, despite some lapses in her crude accent, is quite good. Tim Roth, Brian Cox and John Hurt are also brilliant in their respective roles. They all put in their best and it shows. This isn’t a hatchet job. This is a good, solid entertaining film, despite a lot of talk about cattle. It’s got a strange magic about it.

Rating: 7/10- Good solid entertainment.

#23: Plunkett and Macleane

General Opinion: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

Review: I could review this film with one word and one word only. Bullshit.  But that would be totally unfair… Wouldn’t it? Well no. It wouldn’t. Because that’s what this is. The plot is weak, miserable and unengaging. The characters are two dimensional, the acting is poor and the script is so limp wristed that it just makes you want to barf. It’s so bad that they’ve had to make every other word a swear word, which isn’t good. I don’t mind swearing- Used in the right way it’s fine. But there is such a thing as overusing it and this film overuses it enough for several films.

And then you have the music. House and Dance music in a film about eighteenth century highwaymen. I kid you not. It’s so ridiculously contrived that it’s unbelievable. What it serves to show is that this is not a film that was put together with any thought, care or attention. This has simply been thrown together. You can tell they didn’t do any research because all the period detail is stereotypes and assumptions. The toffs wander around like they’re gay stereotypes, the Newgate prisoners are looneys out of Monty Python and as for everybody else… They don’t appear to exist.

At times it’s almost like this was made just to be the worst film imaginable. I mean… Are they trying to be funny or something? They certainly aren’t funny, that’s for sure. This is horrible… And when I say horrible… I mean HORRIBLE!

There’s very little to save it, except for maybe a good performance by Michael Gambon (Yep… Dumbledore’s back!) Robert Carlyle does ok as well. But as a whole, this film is just piss poor. Worse… It’s potentially a nightmare.

Rating: 1/10- This is about as bad as it can get.

#24: The Duchess

General Opinion: Neurghhh… Wha??? Errr…

Review: I’m really at a loss with what to make of this one. It is in no way a bad film… But somehow it… Ragrhhh! I don’t know. I can’t describe it. There’s something nibbling at the back of my mind which I can’t quite shake off.

So this is a film about the life of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, Her fling with Earl Grey and her marriage to Voldemort. Really… Voldemort! Ok… William Cavendish the Duke of Devonshire. Ahhh! That might be what it is. Ralph Fiennes is basically playing a none-domestic, none magical Voldemort. Seeing him rape Keira Knightley is unncessary as well. Just the screaming would have sufficed thank you very much.

Ralph Fiennes is playing an incredibly wooden man here. Any wooden actor would have done. Fiennes just looks uncomfortable the entire time. As for everybody else… Whilst they may be nice to look at (especially in certain cases) they aren’t exactly right for the characters. The only exception to this rule is Earl Grey who, whilst maybe not perfect, was alright Isuppose.

The script is ok. It grates a bit at first but you kind of get used to it. It has some moments and it keeps the film moving along at a reasonable enough pace.

It just all seems a bit… Contrived? I don’t know. This is a good film, not exactly accurate I’ll admit, but it just leaves a funny aftertaste. There is something not quite right about it.

Rating: 7/10- Worth a watch but there is something a little odd about it.

#25: The Madness of King George

General Opinion: Magnificent!

Review: The year is 1788 and King George III sits upon the throne of England. Get used to it as he’s going to be around for another three films after this one… And did I mention he’s going to be batshit crazy for most of that? This is the film that explains why. And what a film it is! I mean… literally, this film has it all. It’s got power and emotion, it’s got a cracking script, fantastic performances, humour… need i go on? It is as practically perfect as you can reasonably expect a history film to be.

Granted, it doesn’t have an epic quality to it but that’s clearly not necessary given the subject matter. This is the story of a king going mad and it’s gripping enough as it is. Nigel Hawthorne is fantastic as George III, going from rationally sane, to crazy, to raging but not as crazy, to silent but crazy and then finally back to sane again. Helen Mirren is on top form. Pitt the Younger is like an eerie premonition of David Cameron whilst Mr Fox is an ominous foreshadowing of Gordon Brown. Add to this that everybody is believable as the characters they play and it serves well giving the film a realistic, authentic taste that immerses you in the period and grips every fibre of your being.

The film does miss out some parts due to time constraints and it does take a bit of dramatic licence here and there but who cares when this is so good? It’s probably the most accurate film we’ve seen so far. Lest we forget, we’ve seen some truly appalling films. Almost everything that happens is based on an actual event. By god the sets are magnificent! Even if they aren’t where they’re supposed to be they’ve done a good job disguising them because I can’t tell the difference (and I once got lost in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle FFS!)

And might I also add that this has what is probably one of the best scenes in cinematic history?  The first restraining scene is just plain awesome, especially with the superb use of Handel in the background and Ian Holm’s cry of “NO SIR… YOU ARE THE PATIENT!” The whole film, but especially this scene, leaves a very distinctive impression on the mind. It’s one you remember. Did I mention this film is the only reason I can identify a Tamworth pig from fifty paces? No… Well it is.

Rating: 10/10- Can’t be faulted.


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