Sunday, November 13, 2011

3 Short Paragraphs: Ironclad

2011, Jonathan English -- download

OK, the setup for this movie is a spotlight on a small but famous point of English history.  In the early 1200s King John (yeah that King John) was forced to sign the Magna Carta, to give some rights to the people he taxed the hell out of to fund the crusades led by his brother Richard.  Please, someone with more of a grasp on English history, add some reality in the comments.  The little window we get is just after the signing, John raises a Danish army and begins an invasion of his own country. The way is blocked by small Rochester Castle, key to the road to London.  And our main characters hole up in there to start a siege movie.

James Purefoy is Marshal, a Templar knight who is a little run-down from his time in the Crusades.  He is returning to the Church for one final act before he becomes a free man. Unfortunately he gets caught up in Albany's (Brian Cox) attempt to stop John and his mercenaries from taking Rochester.  Albany adds Marshal to his old gang, which in a quick montage he gathers together again ala a heist movie, knowing that Marshal's brutal skill will be required here. And thus begins a movie that if seen on PBS as part of a saturday night movie fare would have lit my young self up. Unfortunately, while I still gravitate to these swords and shields fare, I now recognize the unbalanced natures of most.  I read that English suffered immense budget problems on this movie leaving him his two main actors (Purefoy and Giamatti) and very condensed battle scenes so I have to commend him for that skill but it did not capture me.

Ironclad is a bloody movie, as mentioned in the tagline "blood. will. run." on some movie posters. With the mass CGI battle scenes unavailable, English went for the blood & guts splat and chop.  Men are dismembered and literally cut in half by two-handed swords. This was the heart of the movie as our grizzled knight shows us exactly what has him brooding. But all the real dramatic license goes to Paul Giamatti and his angry role as John who is completely pissed that England would take away his God-given right to rule exactly as he sees fit.  He doesn't play John completely as a petulant child nor as a brilliant misguided leader but the fact it is not one note tells us how Giamatti is carrying it so well.