Kingdom of Heaven (15)

Written by William Monahan, Directed by Ridley Scott
On general release from 6th May 2005

Reviewed by Adam Ford

When I first heard that a big budget epic was being made about the Crusades, I feared that it might be some kind of thinly-veiled propaganda for the so-called ‘war on terrorism’. The parallels with the modern day are obvious enough. There are two sides fighting over Middle East territory. Though both claim the will of God as their justification, the leaders of rival armies stand to literally make a killing from all the killing. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Balian (Orlando Bloom) has just lost his wife to suicide. A local priest exploits the bereaved blacksmith’s vulnerable state by convincing him that the only way to save his wife from Hell is to fight for God in Jerusalem. But when he gets there, Balian discovers only brutality and corruption. Due to his bravery he rises through the ranks, and finally defends his people from the mighty Saladin.

Unfortunately, there are only a couple of decent lines in the whole script, and Bloom looks hopelessly out of his depth trying to portray such a legendary figure. Okay, some people might think he looks good with a sword in his hand and the wind blowing through his hair but he can’t act. Fortunately, the sheer scale of the battle scenes, the excellent supporting cast and the moody sense of the medieval world compensates for these shortcomings. The result is an uplifting and very credible historical drama, which makes a change after the disasters that were Alexander and Troy.

By exposing hypocrisy and political manoeuvrings from a bygone age, Monahan and Scott encourage us to hold our own leaders up to the same light.

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