Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Kingdom of Heaven (2005) — So this review is in regards to the Director’s Cut, which I understand to be about 45 minutes longer (and I hear a lot better) than the theatrical version. As it is I quite enjoy this movie. I was expecting more of a bloody Braveheart/Gladiator-style action film (appropriate being from the same director as Gladiator, Sir Ridley Scott). While there are gloriously epic battle scenes I was surprised to learn the movie is more a somber meditation of religious conflict and the notion of honor. Orlando Bloom (while perhaps not the best actor for the role) does the best I’ve ever seen him do in the lead as Balian, a blacksmith who becomes a knight and leaves France for Jerusalem during the Crusades. Eva Green is beautiful as always and alluring as the “unpredictable” princess of Jerusalem who proves more complicated than she initially appears. The supporting cast (Michael Sheen, David Thewlis, Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, Edward Norton, Marton Csokas, Brendan Gleeson, Alexander Siddig, Ghassan Massoud) is fantastic and Ridley Scott’s direction is superb (among the best of his later career). I have some difficulty believing the enlightened approach to religious tolerance espoused by some of the characters was really all that common during the Crusades, but I’ve always believed a film-maker’s responsibility lies in making a good film and not in doing historians’ jobs for them (and anyone who gets their history lessons from films without independent verification is a moron). Kingdom of Heaven is a rather great thought-provoking historical epic that plays with ideas and beliefs as much as swordplay and action.

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