Yes, 'Cleopatra' is historically inaccurate but let's be honest you're not watching it for history.

Cleopatra poster.jpgStory

The film revolves around the titular character Cleopatra, showing her in different stages of her life and her relationship with both Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony. The film her trying to resist the imperial ambitions of Rome.

You get to see Cleopatra grow as this movie spans a very long period of time. You see the things that made her great as well as her pitfalls. In this movie, she becomes a person not just a historical figure


Before I talk about the acting in this movie, I have to mention how white-washed this film is. Cleopatra was an African woman and is portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor who was definitely not African. That made the movie hard to watch at times. I do understand that casting black actors in leading roles was a rarity in 1963 (I mean diversity is still a problem now) but saying I'm okay with it would be a lie and it took me out of the film on more than one occasion. There are black people in the film but they are mostly relegated to extras and the help which makes the white-washing even more blatant and uncomfortable.

This is one of the many movies that  Elizabeth Taylor is known for and she really carries the movie. She' extremely charismatic and you care about her character and understand her motivations. She is also one of the most extra movie characters I have ever seen. She came to Rome dressed like this.

That is a woman who didn't come to play games with anyone, even her "husband's" actual wife. Her flair and love of the theatrical makes her a very entertaining character and when the movie meanders (which it does quite a lot) you want to go back to wherever Cleopatra is. Due to the movie's incredibly long runtime, you see her in numerous situations from strong-willed to conniving, from joyful to hopeless. Having the titular character go through so many emotions humanises her and makes her more endearing to anyone watching the film.

Rex Harrison plays Julius Caesar relationship with Cleopatra is the catalyst that starts the movie. He has chemistry with  Elizabeth Taylor and their two characters play off each other very well making the relationship between their characters believable. They match each other's ambition and you can see that Caesar actually cares about Cleopatra and that come from Rex Harrison's performance.

Richard Burton plays Marc Anthony who is arguably a more important character than Caesar. His relationship with Cleopatra is more well known than Caesar's. While watching the film I wondered whether Marc Anthony ever actually cared about Cleopatra but towards the end of the film especially when he thinks she is dead you see that he does actually care about her. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor have great  chemistry, so I wasn't surprised when I found out that they had an affair while filming this movie (even though they were both married at the time - that sides eye worthy, but I digress.) Richard Burton gives the second strongest performance in the film after Taylor. He's arrogant when needs to be as well as conflicted, remorseful and lovesick.
There are moments with over-acting but they are few and far between and I actually found them quite funny even though I wasn't supposed to.


This movie's runtime is one of its disadvantages. It's 4 hours and 3 minutes and that's a lot of time to dedicate to a film. This movie could easily have been 2 hours and would have more emotional impact. There are moments that don't add anything to the story and feel like filler.
Some of the lines are clunky and don't always have the desired impact which falls down to the writing. It's not bad by any stretch but they haven't aged well in the last 55 years. Overall the writing holds up and produced genuine reactions from me.

Set Design

This film at one point was one of the most expensive films ever made and I can see why. This movie looks expensive by today's standard. Nowadays film's like this would be made with extensive amounts of CGI but in 1963 that wasn't possible, so many of the sets had to be built with real extras, props and practical effects. It required over 26,000 costumes, 79 sets with thousands of extras. When your movie looks like this
Image result for cleopatra entrance to rome
I'm not surprised that it cost as much as it did.
That being said it is a beautiful film and it's very obvious that there is an attention to detail which makes watching the film worth it.

Overall Thoughts

For a film that's over 4 hours long, I found it surprisingly easy to watch. You get invested in Cleopatra's story. She's a complex protagonist and watching her throughout the movie as she manoeuvres her political and personal relationships is fascinating and made me want to do more research on the woman Cleopatra was.
If there was one word I would use to describe this film, it would be epic from the scale to the sets, the characters and the runtime this move is EXTRA! Cleopatra does everything dialled up to 11 and that's why she's so endearing.
Even though you know the story ends with her suicide (spoiler alert!) the scene is delivered in a sombre way and even in her last moments, Cleopatra is someone who is headstrong and she has the upper hand until the end of her life.
If you are going to watch this movie, I would recommend splitting up the watch time because it definitely feels like a two-part movie.