Tony Richardson's film about the colossal Crimean War blunder combines his sociopolitical anger with the splendors of a David Lean epic for a fascinating artifact of that boiling-point protest year, 1968. Like America's contemporaneous Vietnam War, Britain's mid-19th-century conflict with Russia in defense of Turkey made less sense the deeper they sank into it; John Gielgud's Lord Raglan keeps referring absentmindedly to the enemy as "the French"! Aside from a peripheral romantic triangle involving apparently the single sane officer in Her Majesty's army (David Hemmings), his friend (Mark Burns), and the friend's wife (Vanessa Redgrave--Mrs. Richardson), the film is really about the profoundly jingoistic Victorian imagination; transitional animation sequences by Richard Williams seem to plunge us directly into the British national psyche. Somewhat muddled as drama, but irresistibly persuasive in its historical detail and stunning camerawork (David Watkin, Chariots of Fire), The Charge of the Light Brigade is a prime candidate for rediscovery. --Richard T. Jameson
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