Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal) is a young poor Irish man who gets romantically involved with an aristocrat (Gay Hamilton). When a wealthy suitor gets in the way, he challenges him to a duel. He then enlists in the British Army for the seven year war against France. During his assignment, he defects and is caught by the Prussian army. He serves them as a soldier, becomes a hero, and later a spy. But despite his accomplishments, his intentions are not always noble.
The character of Redmond Barry makes a fascinating subject. He appears stately and dignified. Kind and earnest. Confident and pleasing. Yet he manipulates others to gain aristocratic status. Under the guidance of his mother (Marie Kean), he eventually achieves this by marrying Lady Lyndon (Marisa Berenson) and inherits a son named Lord Bullingdon (Leon Vitali) who can see through Barry.
Much of this epic journey, divided in two acts, is aided by the vast cinematography of John Alcott that captures the huge landscapes and seasons, which are particularly beautiful in the scenes of autumn. Ornate costumes have an exquisite charm. And the culture of restraint & modesty is well performed. It’s an enchanting elegant motion picture directed by Stanley Kubrick depicting the path of a man who is ruled by his desires.