Kingdom of Heaven (15)
Time Out saysAfter the neo-colonialist heroics of ‘Black Hawk Down’, you might have expected another ‘shock and awe’ job from Scott’s take on the Crusades, yet this intelligent epic proves a strikingly conciliatory report from the Middle East. By 1186, Jerusalem is still held by the Christians, though only as part of a working truce with the powerful Muslim leader Saladin that offers religious tolerance within the city. Unfortunately, enlightened Christian ruler Baldwin IV, the so-called ‘leper king’, is in decaying health with no successor. With a tussle for control looming, it’s time for Orlando Bloom’s knight Balian to make his mark, as the former blacksmith arrives in the city to assume control of his Crusader knight father’s lands and find his spiritual purpose in the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’.
Enshrining the fruitfulness of compromise and establishing a man’s worth through his actions rather than adherence to clerical prescripts, Balian’s quest for conflict resolution brings much respect for wise Saladin (charismatic Syrian Ghassan Massoud), with the villains of the piece clearly the holy-war-mongering Christian fundamentalist Knights Templar (Brendan Gleeson and Marton Csokas, who seriously over-eggs it). If the contemporary angle is obvious, and presumably not what Bush’s America wants to hear, it’s also perhaps just a touch too impeccably liberal to convince in its proper historical context, though never less than absorbing. Cramped for space at 144 minutes, reducing love interest Eva Green’s Princess Sibylla to an exotic bystander, the film’s storytelling is often awkward, but it offers quality mayhem with its slashing, spouting battle scenes and copious boiling oil. Overall, it’s striking in thought and deed, and you will honestly believe they rebuilt twelfth-century Jerusalem for the occasion.
Fri May 6, 2005