A KNIGHT'S TALE
Review by Michael Jacobson
Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Rufus Sewell, Shannyn Sossamon, Laura Fraser,
Director: Brian Helgeland
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 144 Minutes
Release Date: September 27, 2005
it be done, Daddy? Can a man change
my son. If a man believes, he can
schools of art are deliberate, disciplined, schooled and focused.
Some artists merely go by the basest of instincts, namely “if it feels
right, it is right”. There is no logic in having a 14th century period
piece about knightly tournaments begin with a Medieval crowd stomping and
clapping to “We Will Rock You” and doing the wave.
bless Brian Helgeland for it. There’s
enough brainless spectacle at cineplexes every summer that disguise timidity
with loudness, violence and machismo. A
Knight’s Tale isn’t afraid to take chances, and doesn’t care if you
smirk. It dares you not to have fun
while you watch it.
Ledger plays William Thatcher, one of three young squires with a problem.
Their master has died unexpectedly before the final round of a jousting
tournament he was winning. Without
the prize purse, they have no food. William
takes matters into his own hands: he
dons the knight’s armor, saddles his horse, and finishes the match, even
though jousting was a sport reserved for nobility…impersonating a knight and
taking part in the tournaments would be a serious offence.
has always dreamed of knighthood, which was technically out of reach because of
his peasant birth. But his father
always taught him to have faith and go after his dreams.
With one tournament under his belt, William realizes he might have a
future in knighting after all. With
the aid of two trusty squires, a lovely and skilled lady blacksmith (Fraser) and
no less than Geoffrey Chaucer himself (Bettany) to pen his fake patents of
nobility, William becomes Urlich von Lichtenstein, a master jouster and a
regular Sir Lance-a-lot.
would think watching this movie that knights had no other purpose but to joust
in games, but no matter…the newly named Urlich becomes a champion.
The crowds take to him (in part because of Chaucer’s raucous
introductions that sound like something from the WWF), and he falls in love with
a beautiful young noblewoman, Jocelyn (Sossamon).
I love how the movie handled the romance like every other aspect, with a
charming self-depreciating humor. “Love
has given me wings!” William coos. “I
feel like a poet!” “You may
feel like a poet,” his squire replies, “but you sound like an idiot.”
again, the handy Chaucer comes into play, helping his new Lord woo his lady
fair, despite William’s obvious lies. “I
give the truth scope,” he brags. Would
Chaucer ever write about his adventures with the squire playing knight?
Check out the knight’s story in The Canterbury Tales and let
your imagination run wild.
no summer film would be complete without a good villain.
Here, it is the smug Count Adhemar (Sewell), who of course, has never
been beaten, and who also has his eyes on the lady Jocelyn.
Before the movie is over, things will certainly change.
movie has a playful, reckless abandon that may raise an eyebrow or two, but an
infectious spirit that wins out. I’d
call the banquet scene where stiff moving dancers and a plucky Renaissance
sounding tune segues into David Bowie’s “Golden Years” as one of the most
joyful movie moments of the year. Other
rock songs accentuate the action, and I’ll leave them for you to discover and
smile at the pleasure of hearing them while at the same time, trying to dismiss
it as a gimmick that doesn’t work.
action scenes are impressive, even if just for the reason that there’s only so
many ways you can show two men on horses ramming each other with lances.
The exploding balsa wood could have gotten old, but with a few wire
tricks and more and more toppers for stunts, plus some increasingly inventive
camerawork, we manage to keep hanging on the outcome of every match.
By the finale, you’ll be on the edge of your seat in spite of yourself.
Ledger (the new Matt Damon!), just after his noted performance as Mel Gibson’s son
in The Patriot, demonstrated an ability to carry a film on his own here.
He’s effectively charming and funny…he knows when to play it
seriously and when to wink at his audience.
Young Shannyn Sossamon, discovered while serving as a DJ at a party, is a
real find as Jocelyn…she’s as sharp as she is beautiful.
Rufus Sewell is an actor I always enjoy seeing, and he brings an
unrepentant sort of mustache-twirling villainy to Adhemar without self
consciousness…it’s just the antagonist the film calls for.
Of course, Paul Bettany steals many a scene as Chaucer, and isn’t
afraid to play the historic poet in a way no modern audience has ever pictured
Knight’s Tale, by any definition, is simply fun. It
gets high marks for its anachronistic sense of daring-do and for bringing a
modern energy and sensibility to a period film.
I don’t know if it’s a formula that will ever require repeating, but
for shear guts, for mixing action, comedy and romance in self-depreciating ways,
and for beginning with “We Will Rock You” and ending with AC/DC’s “You
Shook Me All Night Long”, this film is a welcome change of pace in an
otherwise dull and uneventful summer of movies.
Watching A Knight’s Tale is a visual joy.
Despite its cheekiness, the palate of the film is that of a rich period
piece, which means wonderful, vibrant colors and beautiful art direction.
Scene after scene render impeccably perfect, with amazing detail, natural
coloring and flesh tones, and absolutely no sense of grain, distortion or
compression to mar the images. Virtually
any frame could be frozen and reproduced as a testament to the capabilities of
5.1 soundtrack is equally effective, and boy, does it have a lot to work with.
From the rumbling of horses’ hooves that will moan from your subwoofer,
to the rowdy crowds that fill every corner of your room, to the dynamic range
including the thundering fights to the quiet crackle of a fire, this disc makes
the most of digital surround. Panning
effects are clean and smooth on every axis of transition, dialogue is always
clearly rendered, and of course, the punch of the movie’s rock soundtrack is
pure. Top marks all the way!
The features start with 11 short production featurettes, each dealing with a specific aspect of the
movie from the rock soundtrack to the costuming, from the stunt work to Heath
Ledger himself. For a more coherent
and comprehensive look, the original 15 minute HBO making-of special is also
included. There is also a music video of Robbie Williams
and Queen performing “We Are the Champions”.
is feudal (insert groan here). A
Knight’s Tale is cheeky, reckless fun that throws caution to the wind and
dares to flaunt its warped sense of style with disarming candor.