Length: 128 minutes
Release Date: September 22, 2006
Directed by: Steven Zaillian
Genre: Drama / Thriller
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Based on the 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Robert Penn Warren, “All the King’s Men” is a remake of the 1949 movie by the same name, a film that won three Oscars. This flick follows the rise and fall of a Louisiana governor named Willie Stark. Audiences see Willie transform from a humble “hick” who honestly wants to help people, to a corrupt political monster. While the story line is fictional, the movie is loosely based on the political term of Governor Huey Long, who governed Louisiana during the depression era.
Interestingly enough, the director of this movie, Steven Zaillian, also known for “Schindler’s List,” “Gangs of New York” and “American Gangster,” did not base this modern rendition of “All the King’s Men” on the Oscar-winning movie from years past. Instead, he wrote the screenplay for this film based on the text of Warren’s book. Doing so gives “All the King’s Men” an authentic frame for Louisiana politics during the late 1920s and early 1930s without the influence of a prior director.
The main character of this flick, Willie Stark, is played by Sean Penn. Penn is most known for his roles in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “I am Sam,” and “Milk.” This role is very much out of the ordinary for him, as he is known for portraying characters who have more of an inward characteristic about them. In “All the King’s Men,” his character is just a simple “hick” from the wrong side of town. He is convinced by Tiny Duffy, played by James Gandolfini , to run for office to split the “hick vote.” Of course, Gandolfini is most known as Tony Soprano from the HBO hit “The Sopranos.”
In “All the King’s Men,” Willie Stark is portrayed as a man of the people who plans to help them rise above the oppression of the Great Depression, which is great for the citizens of Louisiana during this desperate time. He is extremely ambitious and has big goals for himself, which is both good and bad. On one hand, this leaves Stark on a quick path to success. While on the other, his path is not always paved with honesty, correct practices and good decisions. Corruption, greed and a turn of values begin to take over Stark’s career, which puts him on a downward spiral. His original values and promises are thrown to the wayside as Stark realizes the hard road of temptation that governors and other political officials actually face during their time in office.
Viewers of this film enjoy a cast that is chock-full of talent. Besides Sean Penn and James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, known for her roles in “Titanic,” “The Holiday” and “Revolutionary Road” also stars. Other top-notch actors like Jude Law, famous for his parts in the “Sherlock Holmes” movies, Mark Ruffalo from “Zodiac,” “The Kids Are Alright” and “Shutter Island” and Anthony Hopkins, most known as Hannibal Lecter, all make appearances in the film. With such a star-studded cast full of differing personalities and acting styles, viewers have a chance to see their favorite actors portrayed as depression-era Southerners, even if the roles are small.
The turns of the plot keep movie-goers on their toes, while the notable change in Willie Stark’s persona twists the film in a dark direction. While viewers enjoy the friendly family man Sean Penn portrays in the beginning of the film, by the end, they are likely to have a much different opinion of his character. Other characters, such as Tiny Duffy played by James Gandolfini, provoke viewers immediately, causing them to form an opinion about the character right away.
Whether looking for a tragedy or political thriller, viewers find both these elements in “All the King’s Men.” The strong casting paired with historic elements lead to an interesting film that leaves viewers wondering who will do what next. By the end of the movie, viewers are either glad to see the tension end or wondering what went so wrong in Willie Stark’s career.
Viewers of “All the King’s Men” learn why the tagline “Some people will do anything to gain power. Some will do anything to keep it,” is so appropriate for this movie. The film shows how the rise to power truly derails some individuals and causes them to fall away from their original beliefs. Sean Penn’s performance as Willie Stark is described as Oscar-worthy by many, and with the dynamic transformation he undergoes throughout the course of this movie, it is easy to see why.
Bring Home the Oscars! Enter Here to Win – Gravity / Dallas Buyers Club / 12 Years a Slave / Wolf of Wall Street / American Hustle / Her – All on Blu-Ray!!