Knight’s Tale

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Movie Review by EDF

Starring: Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Rufus Sewell, Paul Bettany, Shannyn Sossamon
Director: Brian Helgeland

“A man can change his stars”, a father tells his young son in A KNIGHT’S TALE, a movie which is set in 14 th century Europe and has more in common to the light-hearted efforts of the TV shows such as HERCULES and XENA. In other words, don’t expect everything to be historically correct (more about that later) and should only to be viewed as a piece of entertainment.

Centering itself on mediaeval jousting tournaments, the movie starts off with William Thatcher (Heath Ledger), Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk) who find their master has died quietly right in front of them. Knowing that their master had to win one more round of the jousting tournament and with their rumbling stomachs convincing them that this was the right thing to do or die of starvation, William puts on his master’s armour. Knowing that they would be in serious trouble if they were caught impersonating a person of noble birth, William tells Roland and Wat, “I’ve waited my whole life for this moment”.

Approaching the arena, they are greeted by the crowd who stamp and chant to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”. Winning the tournament, William convinces the other two that they can continue with their deception and win other tournaments. William proceeds to change his name to Sir Ulrich von Lichtenstein from Gelderland. The trio’s path crosses Geoff Chaucer (Paul Bettany), a writer and poet whose way with words and forged documents helps the cause along. Unfortunately when they first meet, he does not have a stitch of clothing on him due to a gambling debt. Agreeing to help each other, they are also joined by Kate (Laura Fraser), a fiercely independent young blacksmith who is also a wizard with metalwork.

Unfortunately not everything goes smoothly. William comes across Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell) who commands vast armies around Europe and will shortly join his men in France. William’s and Adhemar’s attention are focused on both the tournament and the stunning Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), a noblewoman who notices William, much to Adhemar’s annoyance. The Count, not wanting to be defeated at the tournament or with affairs of the heart, starts investigating into Sir Ulrich’s background.

As a Hollywood movie, A KNIGHT’S TALE makes no claims to be authentic. Just as well as the movie tries hard to attract an audience that usually would not bother with this sort of genre. The mix of visuals and classic tunes from Thin Lizzy and War are amusing and deliberately out of place, but more so is the dance sequence which accompanies David Bowie’s Golden Years. While the temptation to snigger during these scenes is overwhelming, during a sweeping view of mediaeval London, there seemed to be a monstrosity in the background. If you check out the top right hand corner of the shot, it looks like the a big carousel wheel, better known as the London Eye, which hasn’t been taken out of the shot. If I’m wrong about this, please e-mail Phase9.

As for the cast, Heath Ledger, fresh from THE PATRIOT, carries the movie well with assistance from his co-stars. Rufus Sewell makes the most of acting the menacing bad guy without really needing to say much. Shannyn Sossamon was spotted with a friend who was deejaying at Gwyneth and Jake Paltrow’s joint birthday party and had never starred in a movie before.
While some of the dialogue is on the cheesy side and the movie is at least 20 minutes too long, the jousting sequences are spectacularly shot and look very painful. Leave your brain and your troubles at the door and prepare to be entertained for “He Will Rock You”.

4 out of 6 stars