Black Death

3 out of 5 stars
Black Death

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

When your bubonic-plague movie manages to avoid the specter of Monty Python's Flying Circus ("Bring out'cha dead!"), it's definitely doing something right. Let's give this British-German--made adventure some credit for building a head of bilious atmosphere, as monks flit past piles of rotting bodies and the skies seem permanently cloudy. Our hero, Osmund (Redmayne), is a young novitiate who awaits a sign from God to lead him to a higher purpose---or also in the general direction of his lady love, safely in the marshes. His augury comes in the form of strapping Ulric (Bean, in Lord of the Rings mode), a mercenary whose band of soldiers requires a Christian guide to lead them into the wild.

Off they go, in the trajectory of a smartish script (by Dario Poloni) that's more interested in matters of faith and honor than in lancing buboes or beheading nonbelievers. They journey to a town reportedly untouched by the pestilence; as a bonus, the village turns out to be under the witchy spell of Carice van Houten, who was unforgettable (and wearing very little) when charming her way through the Third Reich in Paul Verhoeven's Black Book. With unexpected supernatural restraint, the movie approaches a religious parable; am I being unfair in wishing it had a touch more apocalyptic hysteria to it?

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