Of the several Shakespearean plays made into movies, one is unprepared for the brilliance of Branagh's performance. Many claim his is the best interpretation of all.
In fact, this film allows the viewer to follow the immortal Bard's language without difficulty. This was not because Branagh changed the olde English words, but because he learned them by heart, made them his own, and enunciated them into flowing dialogue with clarity and gusto. Branagh's delivery is intense and well articulated. His expressions and mannerisms accentuate the power of the words and add tremendously to the impact of the presentation. His appearance is every inch a king as well.
Before the battle Henry speaks to his men in the following stirring words: ...and Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by from this day until the ending of the world but we in it shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother. Be he e'er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition, and gentlemen in England now abed shall think themselves acursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks, that fought with us upon St. Crispin's day! After hearing that speech, you will want to join him at Agincourt!
Supporting cast includes a bevy of fine British actors, including Derek Jacobi, the chorus who leads us into, through, and finally out of the world of King Henry V. Brian Blessed, Simon Shepherd, and James Larkin play the King's barons. Emma Thompson has a small but key part as the French Princess Katherine, whom Henry woos following the victory at Agincourt.
Sets and costuming are well chosen and photography is excellent. Original music by Patrick Doyle keeps pace with the action. Film editing is a textbook example of how to put a movie together. There is neither too much left in, nor too little in any given scene. The result is a well-paced, polished performance that really cannot be improved.