The film focuses mainly on the battle that took place between the Loyalists of King John and the Barons with whoever they could muster against the strong King. Now I must say straight away that you can't expect the film to be completely accurate and it isn't, but for an independent film mainly British made with US assistance this is a very good and fairly accurate attempt.
There are some issues I believe with the historical facts such as the French being involved before the siege at Rochester, the fact that King John actually did take the castle in the end (pretty big mistake there methinks) and I don't believe there were any Danish mercenaries involved at anytime, not sure about Knights Templar's either. So God knows where they came up with that idea for the film and lastly King John was simply a bad king and not a bad person really, this siege was really part of a civil war which turned from a cause of 'more power to the people' to simply a scuffle for the throne and power by the Barons.
Of course the film has been taken down the Hollywood route I'm afraid, think 'BraveHeart', 'Pathfinder' or 'Centurion' etc...and you know exactly what I mean, the film is wonderfully made and shot but there are elements included purely to make the story more enticing to a modern audience. Now although this isn't a Ridley Scott flick they have tried their best to go down that epic route, all the action is hand held cams that shake all over the show to add that feel of raw blood n sweat in the heat of battle which does work. There is plenty of claret spraying n squirting from lopped off limbs and slashes to satisfy the goriest of mindsets and some good catapult action all set on location within Wales to give an excellent murky representation of gloomy medieval England.
The action looks good and its fast n fluid but there are hints of slightly amateurish shots here and there along with examples of basic acting from the extras in battle. If you look closely there aren't that many men in the battles (clever editing) and they aren't going at it hammer n tongs if you get me. Also I should add a few shots using CGI, mainly of the castle, are a touch obvious but nothing too horrific.
The main issue I had was the typical Hollywood approach of having a band of guys all brought together with the usual 'Hollywood recruit' sequence. Each man being of different build and skill, one guy is a strong big fat bearded 'Little John' type, another is common mouthy and devious, another is a top archer, another is just a young lad, another is good with knives and women and of course the hero is a Knights Templar who is an all round kick ass machine. Its just a bit too flash and silly really, of course they need characters the viewer can relate to and cheer for but its almost like a computer game roster for a 'hack n slash' fighter.
Great performances from a very good line up including Giamatti giving a good slimy side to his character despite the fact that King John wasn't really 'a bad guy', Dance is perfect as usual as is Jacobi and Cox again cast as a gruff leader/soldier. Purefoy does whats needed as the strong heroic knight but little more, Mara is cute as a button whilst playing scared and innocent, Crook fits the part for the era with his malnourished appearance, Aneurin Barnard is actually very good as the young lad 'Guy' and also looks like a certain Hobbit. Finally add to that a couple of cockneys in Jamie Foreman and Jason Flemyng for that typical dirty, gritty, uniquely common English touch.
Like history? like a wee bit of action hokey pokey? then this is for you, just try to ignore the bits of cinematic popcorn excess .
The introduction is typical "Lord of the Rings"-esque bravado with narration over scroll-looking stationary illustrations that explain the backdrop of the setting, time, and political turmoil -- in other words, a lazy approach to fill audience members with the narrative quickly -- and what a shallow narrative it is. There's no effort given to develop a stirring, cohesive narrative. It's apparently clear that "Ironclad"'s geared toward the action, not the storytelling; almost the entire movie is tediously paced with no highlights to mention of, paired with a horrible screenplay. The script is so bland, lifeless and shallow -- they add nothing to the story other than to progress the events to a closure and to highlight its setting. It's transparently clear that "Ironclad" fails to deliver a story, period, but how about the action? It's excessively and uselessly violent that fails to entertain. "Ironclad" has an unattractive stench that overstays its want... not to mention, it's a 2 hour 38 minute borefest.
Overall, "Ironclad" is a monotonous, ignorant gore-fest that simply wants to chop limbs off for the sake of entertainment with really bland characters and a dull narrative. Wow... this was so boring, lifeless, and excruciatingly frustrating to see that movies like this are presented to the public to view for entertainment's sake. I'm surprised this isn't a straight-to-DVD or a made-for-TV movie. Horrible
Director: Jonathan English
Summary: Backed by his "Magnificent Seven," a principled Knight Templar (James Purefoy) defends Rochester Castle from the ruthless King John (Paul Giamatti) and his advancing armies, who seek to rule England's free men by force -- no matter what the Magna Carta might say. Charles Dance, Kate Mara, Jason Flemyng, Brian Cox and Derek Jacobi co-star in this action-packed period piece set at the height of the Middle Ages.
My Thoughts: "This film is probably the bloodiest period piece I have ever seen. It's got plenty of fight scenes with blood, guts, and some body parts. There's even a bit of romance thrown into the mix of it all. I have never seen such brutal act's in a film. I kinda enjoyed the sickness of it. How the camera didn't shy away from the madness and showed it all. The acting was great and I thought James Purefoy did an excellent job as the lead in the movie. Brian Cox is great as always, and Paul Giamatti is brilliant as the King. If your looking for a bloody good time, then this film is for you."
Very good! A very nice medieval film full of blood and guts action. The story is quite easy to follow yet is intriguing and bold. The cinematography is really capture in this film quite good and the scenes were very well executed. If your into action or medieval films this is a must for you.
It is the year 1215 and the rebel barons of England have forced their despised King John to put his royal seal to the Magna Carta, a noble, seminal document that upheld the rights of free-men. Yet within months of pledging himself to the great charter, the King reneged on his word and assembled a mercenary army on the south coast of England with the intention of bringing the barons and the country back under his tyrannical rule. Barring his way stood the mighty Rochester castle, a place that would become the symbol of the rebel's momentous struggle for justice and freedom.
The movie is basically about a Templar and a small group of soldiers who are attempting to hold Rochester Castle, the key to southern England, against the siege of John's superior army and Danish mercenaries. Ironclad is nothing special, but it's entertaining enough. There are a few faces you'll probably recognize among the cast, like Brian Cox, Paul Giamatti, and Kate Mara. I doubt any of the actors or actresses will be up for many awards (though Giamatti, as King John, does get a memorable scene or three), but they do good enough jobs that I had no complaints.
The look of the film is reminiscent of other recent similarly set action movies, like Black Death and Centurion. Very bleak, grey, and violent. Blood splashes all over the place during the frequent battle scenes, limbs are hacked off, and gaping wounds abound. This isn't a movie for the squeamish.
As I mentioned before, Ironclad isn't a huge step forward for this kind of film, but it succeeds well enough at what it attempts to do for me to give it a positive review. See it, if you're interested.
In 13th-century England, a small group of Knights Templar fight to defend Rochester Castle against the tyrannical King John.
The real thing Ironclad has going for it, among so many other medieval sword fighting epics, is its brutality, so I'm wondering why it didn't go a few steps farther and be the Caligula of our times. Don't get me wrong, it's plenty brutal. People get sliced in half, arms and feet are cut off, heads get hit with iron balls and splatter all over the place. Actually though, there is a nice combination of gory battle scenes and hokey Shakespearean drama. I think what would have helped the plot is if our rag tag group of twenty men fighting against an army of a thousand actually had a plan. That's what made great battle movies like Braveheart or The Seven Samurai so intriguing, knowing that the underdogs could actually outwit their opponents. But here it's just brute strength and it's not always convincing. I mean, they knew the army would eventually come through that door, so why not dig a big pit behind it filled with poison spikes or a pool of acid or something? But overall, for a two hour movie, I have to admit, I wasn't bored once, and when I got interrupted in the middle of it, I was anxious to get back to it. Ironclad was a pleasant surprise, and when I say pleasant, I mean the type of pleasant during which a priest gets his tongue cut off or a guy gets an ax shoved into his crotch. That type of pleasant surprise, you know? Oh, and also hokey lines like, "I fight, so that you don't have to," offering some unintended laughs between the hot tar splashed in people's faces.
...except they didn't. Intending to restore his full kingly powers, John recruits Tiberius(Vladimir Kulich), a Danish missionary, and his crew for a militaty campaign which Marshal(James Purefoy), a former Knights Templar, barely escapes from with his life. Marshal then joins up with Baron Albany(Brian Cox) whose only hope to fight King John may be to hold the fortress at Rochester with a handful of men until the French show up. Archbishop Langton(Charles Dance), one step from excommunication himself, does not approve of the plan since the Church frowns on suicide.
"Ironclad" benefits from a fine cast, of which Charles Dance fares best with Paul Giamatti an entertaining second. And the blood, grit and mud lend the movie a good deal of verisimilitude. But as plausible as the movie is historically, it is not staged that convincingly, especially in the department of so few holding off so many. That's not to mention the gaping black hole where a leading character should be. As deep as the movie can be in exploring some important issues, there is a time for introspection and the middle of a siege is not one for a soldier fighting bravely for the first stirrings of participatory democracy.
The expected historical inaccuracies aside, most medieval films tend to be, in my opinion, just plain boring. It's as if nobody wants to come in and spice up the genre a bit by adding in CHARACTERS or an engaging PLOT, or maybe even stunning CINEMATOGRAPHY. By all means, I know it's the filmmaker's job to make their film look as grim as possible, but it is not, however, their duty to script the production in such a ludicrous and unappealing matter.
So now we've got a new medieval flick called "Ironclad", which has a promising cast, premise, and time period to spare; and alas, it's not much different than the others of its kind, wasting potential at every chance it gets, and boring us to tears just as often. I mean, the thing is two hours long; at least give us something to be interested in. There was no reason for me to engage, while at the same time, there was nothing for me to just despise. This is so maddening that I can't be in favor of the film, but by no means can I be against it either. Of course, it may just be my personal disappointment with most films set in this era that led me to dislike the newest entry, but then again, from the looks of the general critical consensus, I am not alone; and I'm proud of that.
King John (Paul Giamatti) breaks his word of peace and causes both uproar and rebellion amongst his former followers and enemies. The barons who basically forced the King into signing a sort of peace treaty, the Magna Carta, get their just desserts when the King and his men rebel and brutally slaughter all who humiliated the great man.
The film chronicles a group of warriors, led by Albany (Brian Cox), whom attempt to defend their castle against the King and his men. They fight a good battle, but if you know how the real-life events ended, then you (might) know how the film does too.
But then again, maybe not; given how there are some serious historical inaccuracies going on here. I'm fine with these inaccuracies at times, but sometimes they're just plain distracting, especially when the film tries to be more than it actually is. Of course, King John won the battle in reality and took siege of the castle; while in the film, let's just say, things end a little differently.
However, the real problem I had with "Ironclad" was the way it markets and stylizes itself. While it is indeed a historical film, it's crafted like a Lucio Fulci film; soaked in bloodshed, gore, and stuff for those who appreciate the combination of the two. So basically, it's a gore flick; and a decent one, which is saying more than it should, considering I can't really call the film "stupid" can I? It was made for a certain audience, one that could forgive it of its little flaws, and I wasn't in there with those people, which is a shame. It was hard to enjoy the film; it had little going for it. The characters were weak, and the story was told in a boring, convoluted way. The film looks nice, with some dazzling cinematography, but the film is more interested in its bloody battles than in its characters, which is a shame, because there was a chance - oh, there was a chance - that I may have liked the film if it had some depth. Otherwise, my final complaint is that Giamatti isn't well-used as his character; one which he was never meant to portray. I like Giamatti when he can be cynical and over-the-top, and sometimes lovable, rather than restrained. And there's nothing worse than an unrestrained actor in a restrained role; found within an unrestrained movie, now is there?
Following the signing of the Magna Carta, King John (Paul Giamatti) decides to use the influence of the Pope to regain control of his kingdom through the use of Danish mercenaries.
Unfortunately, the first onscreen deed by these mercenaries is to literally cross swords with a small group of Knights Templar including hero character, Thomas Marshall (James Purefoy).
Following this initial encounter, Marshall is despatched by Archbishop Langton (Charles Dance) along with Baron Albany (Brian Cox) and a band of men with differing motivations to take and defend Rochester Castle, the keystone to preventing the King from regaining his power base of London and buy time for French re-enforcements.
Okay, I'm not going to mince words about this one, there have been reviews in the UK that has given this film four stars out of five, and given some of the acting talent here - you get Charles Dance, Brian Cox and Derek Jacobi in this film - you would expect a four stars out of five film.
What you get is basically get is several pub brawls with swords with some talky bits to justify the blood which is generated in the fight scenes.
Firstly, the fight scenes - yes, they are brutal... yes, there's plenty of blood flying around, but somebody should have really said that you can't pretty much build a film around the 12th century version of a bar room brawl... or several in this film's case. In addition to that, the fight scenes camerawork moves at a dizzying pace - all I'll say is if you suffer from seasickness, take some tablets beforehand.
There are subplots, mainly one involving a forbidden romance between Marshall and Rochester Castle's lady of the manor, Isabel (Kate Mara) which barely justifies it's inclusion, plus minor subplots which try to deal with the loss of innocence due to war, whether war is justified in the name of religion, freedom or love of country and the varying motivations of the supporting characters to take part in this quest.
Finally, the acting muscle in this film does not serve to provide an empathy with the characters... in fact, you don't care why they fight - they simply do.
They say that the devil gets all the best tunes, which is very true to this plot as the "good guys" don't really give you a reason to root for them. In Paul Giamatti's King John, you get a character who chews the scenery, spits it out and chews on what's left. Unfortunately, with his shouting and bravado, I could only make comparisons with a more homicidal and vicious version of Peter Ustinov's Prince John from Disney's Robin Hood - especially during one scene where in an act of bravado he removes the hands and feet from one of his beaten opponents because he has his troops backing him.
Basically, this is a made for TV film with a big budget and really one for DVD. What tries to be an historical epic is instead (and forgive the pun) Saturday Knight's alright for fightin'...followed by Sunday Knight, Monday Knight... you get the picture.
Good actors all-around including Brian Cox, Derek Jacobi, Jason Fleming, Paul Giamatti, Charles Dance, James Purefoy and the lovely Kate Mara.
Three stars for the film, and one for Giamatti.