All the King's Men

Dan Goldwasser Movie Reviews

One drawback to scoring sessions is that I sometimes see the climax and endings of many films, including the big “Oscar contenders”. Such was the case with All the King’s Men, the new adaptation of the 1946 novel by Robert Penn Warren. This new version features Sean Penn as populist politician Willie Stark, and his rise (and fall) through the corrupt landscape of Louisiana politics, as seen through the eyes of ex-reporter Jack Burden (Jude Law).

I found the film to be very well done – it does a nice job placing the film firmly in the backwoods of Louisiana, and you can feel the corruption affecting everyone along the way. A side story involving Burden’s childhood love (Kate Winslet) didn’t feel out of place, since it worked its way into the whole corruption angle. I hate Sean Penn. There, I’ve said it. The guy is an idiot and a misguided politically whacked out loser. That aside, though, he’s one hell of an actor, and he does an excellent job on screen. Of course, the Louisiana accents are pretty thick and heavy in this film, so when he’s on a rant, you might just start coasting along with it for the sheer energy, even if you can’t understand a word he’s saying. I also find it interesting that three of the main characters were played by British actors (Law, Winslet, and Anthony Hopkins).

This film version (the previous one was an Oscar-winning picture from 1949) was adapted and directed by Steven Zaillian, the man who brought us Searching for Bobby Fischer, and won an Oscar for writing Schindler’s List. He did a good job, and helping make the film even more emotionally powerful is the score by James Horner. I had the good fortune to attend the scoring session back in June, and the music was frickin awesome. I still have to write up my soundtrack review, but this score is easily in my Best of 2006 list. I can’t predict how the film will do, but it’s one of those Oscar-calibre pictures, and I definitely recommend it for a nice case study on how a well-intentioned man of the people can fall to corruption and pay the ultimate price.