The story could fit on the back of a postage stamp, and it's a real shame about that. But the lavish visuals, the gory fx, the sumptuous music, kinda make up for it. Not totally mind, but enough to make this film enjoyable to watch.
Has some great scenery and locations and surprisingly strong cast of actors. The problem is the writing or this could have been a very special movie. Worth a watch still though for fans of The Dark Ages movies.
James Purefoy from The Following, Paul Giamatti as King John, and the lovely Kate Mara. Game of Thrones fans will also recognize Charles Dance (Lord Tywin Lannister) and also Mackenzie Crook who plays Orell the Wildling Worg that Jon Snow killed at the end of season 3.
By far the bloodiest movie I've ever seen.
Besides for the actors and the awesome fight scenes this...well...disappointed me. It was extremely historically inaccurate and there was a huge lack of dialogue and depth. Pretty much the actors are the only ones who saved the film. Especially James Purefoy who played the Knight Templar, Thomas Marshal. Thomas Marshal is made up (I looked) and was based off of the famous William Marshal. Poor Thomas. He lost everything in one day thanks to good ol' King John. He snapped and decided enough was enough, so he teamed up with Baron d'Aubigny. They take over a different Baron's castle and hold up against King John and his Danish army until the French arrive.
Throughout all this there is blood and love. Yes....there is a love story between Thomas and Lady Isabel (the castle's baron's wife. Tsk). It was forced and just didn't make sense. o.o She pretty much raped him, because he refused and said he was a man of God and had given up normal life to fight for God. She was like, "NO WAY JOSE! THE ORDER IS DONE, SO LET'S GET IT ON!" And he responded, "NO, NOOOOOOOOOOOO!.......OKAY. Just this once though!" Tsk, tsk. I feel like they forced this romance to add more depth to the story, but it failed. Plus it didn't help that they made her look slutty.
Is there and HEA? That I can not tell you....but the ending will make you shake your head. I loved the last fight between the head of the Danish army and Thomas. Awesome and had me worried for Thomas. There were lots of sad heroics, but then...something happened and it made me mad. I can not say, but alas, that's not how it should have ended.
There's not much else to say.
This was okay and I enjoyed it well enough. It was an interesting take on a historical event that happened during the time of King John and the magna carta. The amazing fight scenes and actors are the only reason to watch this film. If it wasn't for them...this would have been crap. I wish that they would have cut out the romance between Lady Isabel and Thomas (because it would never had happened). Also, the ending made me shake my head. I loved the last epic fight scene and the heroics...but the last 5 minutes was not okay. I would recommend this to those that like James Purefoy and for those that love a good war movie. Out of five stars I will grant this...ummmmm.... 2 stars.
Favorite Character(s): Thomas, King John (just because of the actor and how will he played him), Daniel Marks (hahaha), and the Squire
Not-so Favorite Character(s): Lady Isabel
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 .
They took a slice of history put on clothes of the time period and had a three person drama. Poorly done and they know it.