King Arthur (2004) – movie review

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Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Mads Mikkelsen, Joel Edgerton, Hugh Dancey
Director: Antoine Fuqua

The dark ages, a group of duty bound knights are serving out their last days of service to the Roman Empire. We are introduced to just how effective these knights are in the perfectly staged opening scene where they fight off a group of rebels with military precision.

These are no ordinary knights they are the famous Knights of the Round Table led by the legendary Arthur (Clive Owen). Arthur is a commander under the Roman Empire with his group of loyal yet non-Roman knights who have been forced to serve the Empire till they have settled their family’s debts to the Empire. Just as the knights reach the agreed time of the end of their service Rome calls on them yet again to complete one final mission, to save a young Roman boy and his family from the invading Saxons.

Reluctantly the weary knights proceed to complete their final journey so that they may finally get their freedom from the Romans. Arthur is moved by the suffering of the British workers he finds at the home of the Roman family that he is rescuing. He proceeds to save them and in the process a girl named Guinevere (Keira Knightley) is also rescued from a horrible fate. As the Saxons start to close in Guinevere starts to question Arthur’s loyalties and whether he actually cares about the people he seems so worried about and if he does will he not fight for them. Guinevere proves her mettle in a ferocious encounter between the Saxons and the Knights of the Round Table on a lake of ice. Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd) is Arthur’s best friend and fellow knight and he feels that it would be a pointless effort to battle the Saxons. Arthur finds himself torn between siding with his knights and their dreams of leaving it all behind and fighting with Guinevere who has awakened many passions he had long forgotten existed within him.

This is a good action movie with plenty of battle scenes and a very convincing leading man, Clive Owen, who drives the film along with an unwavering commanding presence. Supporting acts from Ray Winstone who provides some much needed humor add character to the film and Ioan Gruffudd is sufficiently dark and brooding as the lethal womanising Lancelot. The villain of the movie is well played by Stellan Skarsgard, who’s very cold and unrelenting.

This has all the elements of a major epic but alas the screenplay does not allow for enough character development and consequently there is no real feeling of empathy for Arthur and his knights and this is where it falls short. Nonetheless this is still a Jerry Bruckheimer production so there is great action and Antoine Fuqua manages to keep the film in the right direction even though he did not have a more involving script to work with.

This is still worth the trip to the cinema for action fans.

4 out of 6 stars