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ONE NIGHT WITH THE KING

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Tiffany Dupont, Luke Goss, John Rhys-Davies, Omar Sharif, James Callis, Tommy Lister, Peter O’Toole
Director:  Michael O. Sajbel
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  Preview
Length:  124 Minutes
Release Date:  January 30, 2007

“Do you not know your protocol?  To appear unsummoned before the king…

…is DEATH.”

Film ***1/2

Esther was always my favorite book of the Old Testament.  What a story…love and war, dedication and betrayal, heroic and sprawling yet intimate…the tale of how one unlikely woman risked her life to save her people from destruction is inspiring and unforgettable.

One Night With the King is based on that Biblical text, but also from a novel that fleshes out the stories and characters a little more.  As a film, it’s a beautiful, impressive spectacle with an expansive canvas that calls to mind the tone of the great Cecil B. DeMille, but without the inflated sense of self-importance.

It stars Tiffany Dupont as the beautiful  Hadassah, who gets ‘invited’ along with many other fair maidens living in Persia to spend one night with the king Xerxes (Goss) as he readies to pick a new queen.  Under the advice of her dutiful uncle Mordecai (Rhys-Davies), Hadassah keeps her true identity a secret:  she and her family are Jewish. 

Taking the name Esther, she wins the heart of Xerxes with her beauty, brains and boldness, but what seems to be a fairy tale beginning soon turns blood red, as the king’s chief advisor Haman (Callis) has a personal grudge to bear against the Jews, and plans to carry out his vendetta by having the people of Persia rise up and kill every last Jewish man, woman and child in the land.

All that stands between her people and certain doom is Queen Esther, who faces the harshest decision of all:  she can appear unsummoned before her king, which by law was an instant and certain death sentence for her, and speak the truth of herself and her people in order to spare them.

As a film, this is a colorful, sumptuous period piece filled with wonderful sets, amazing cinematography, glorious costumes and a first rate cast including the venerable Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif.  But it is the breathtakingly radiant Ms. Dupont who truly carries the movie, investing Esther with warmth and heart, and everything from childlike glee to courage beyond expectations.  She appeared before in the Mormon historical movie The Work and the Glory, and here, she proves equally comfortable offering modern audiences a slice of Jewish tradition.

This movie is a treat from start to finish…well acted and presented, and with a timeless story that is as enthralling today as it was thousands of years ago.  The Jewish people still celebrate the Feast of Purim, marking the day that one brave young girl risked everything to save her people.  And that young girl’s courage, heart and love still inspires.

Video ****

What a wonderful anamorphic transfer!  I don’t know why, but before seeing One Night With the King, I had assumed it was a fairly low-budget offering directed mostly at Sunday school audiences, but this is a lavish production that feels epic every frame of it’s running time.  Director Michael O. Sajbel brings a large vision to the screen with intimate details, and the rich colors, deep detail and crisp clarity make the film a complete joy to watch.

Audio ****

Likewise the 5.1 audio serves better than expected, with many boisterous crowd sequences, expansive halls with rich tones, and clean and clear dialogue throughout.  Dynamic range is strong, and the crossover signals are employed for a satisfying and tastefully enveloping experience.

Features ½*

Only a preview for the special edition of The Passion of the Christ.

Summary:

One Night With the King takes a timeless tale and brings it to the screen in surprising ways.  Superbly acted and directed, and with a feel very close to the big scale Biblical epics of old, this is an inspiring and enthralling slice of cinematic entertainment.  Highly recommended.

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