Fight Film Friday: Ironclad

Posted: July 15, 2011 in fight film friday
Tags: , ,

UK/USA, 2011
Genre: Action, War, Historical
121 minutes

A member of the Knights Templar must break his vows of peace and silence after King John seeks revenge for being forced to sign the Magna Carta.

Jonathan English, an American director still looking to make his mark on the industry, directs this historical drama about the siege of Rochester in 1215. After a couple of flops, this might be English’s big break as a filmmaker. Ironclad is a very interesting look at the times of King John, striving for a blend of authenticity and true epic scope. The cinematography is certainly gorgeous, taking advantage of the natural beauty of the Welsh countryside. While not really supported by the lackluster editing, it still manages to come off as a strong visual piece, with good use of limited CGI elements to add to the scene instead of distract from it. The score is suitably classical and moving, tying the elements together nicely.

The script itself is mostly good, save for a few odd lines here and there, but it’s the actors that really sell the story. Everyone gets to have their Oscar moments, showing off the strength of the cast. Paul Giamatti steals the show as King John, devouring scenery left and right like the bratty monarch was known for. James Purefoy delivers a solid performance as the film’s hero, the world weary Knight Templar, torn between his vows and his desires to lead his own life. The rest of the cast is rounded out with fine readings that almost seem like character roles, representing common archetypes of fantasy and historical fiction, but manage to show some considerable depth.

The most surprising thing about the movie was the sheer impact of the violence in every scene. The action is incredibly grisly and graphic, sure to make even seasoned movie goers flinch at least a little. While the choreography wasn’t terribly sophisticated, it’s all performed with gusto and fervor, giving every battle a real sense of tension and value. Unfortunately, English opted to use the super tight style of action filming, making it very difficult to really appreciate anything happening on screen. It’s chaotic and confusing, which works somewhat for placing the audience right in the thick of the battle. However, strictly as a piece of film, it does work against it aesthetically. Still, overall, Ironclad is a gritty and powerful historical war movie, and absolutely worth checking out in theaters.

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