Kingdom Of Heaven

Kingdom Of Heaven
Cast: Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Edward Norton, Eva Green, Marton Csokas, Ghassan Massoud
Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay: William Monahan
Genre: Drama/War/Romance
Rated: MA medium level violence
Running Time: 144 Minutes

'Kingdom Of Heaven' is an epic adventure about a common man who finds himself thrust into a decades-long war, a stranger in a strange land, he serves a doomed king, falls in love with an exotic forbidden queen, and rises to the knighthood. Ultimately, he must protect the people of Jerusalem from overwhelming forces - while striving to keep a fragile peace. From Ridley Scott, the master of the epic.

My Verdict:
'Kingdom Of Heaven' is a grand scale movie that tells the story of the long-running Crusades in the 12th Century. Balian is a blacksmith whose wife and son have just died when a knight arrives, Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson), and declares he is his father and invites him to join with him in travelling to Jerusalem to continue to keep peace in the city and maintain the truce with the leader of the Saracens who are lead by Saladin (Ghassan Massoud).

Balian is reluctant but does join the crusade, is knighted by his father thus becoming the new Lord of Ibelin and arrives in Jerusalem, which is being reined by the leprosy riddled, and ailing King Baldwin IV (Edward Norton). Sibylla (Eva Green) is the king's sister who is married to the overly ambitious Guy De Lusignan (Marton Csokas) who wants to rule Jerusalem when King Baldwin dies and to declare war upon the Saracens. It falls on Balian to intervene, to negotiate and to lead the people of Jerusalem into battle, along with falling in love with Sibylla.

Orlando Bloom as Balian is barely convincing. For someone who has tragically lost his wife and son he could have been a little more menacing and threatening with his personal score to settle, and even though their deaths did plant the seed of doubt as far as his religion went, he never really did vent his anger forcefully enough making him a little too much of a pacifist to be leading a battle of the scale that is shown. Sometimes he did end up appearing just a little too "nice" and with a more gutsy approach could have made more of the role. And what was with his extraordinarily pearly white teeth? Near the conclusion of the movie, Balian had just spent days in a dirty and bloody battle, looked like ten miles of bad road and yet when he spoke he looked like an advertisement for a dentist that offers a bleaching service - a pity when most of the other characters had appalling looking teeth which were appropriate for the time and it seems such a simple oversight but still a noticeable one. The rest of the supporting cast are all more than adequate, providing plenty of fodder for their various relationships.

The time and effort used to create 'Kingdom Of Heaven' is amazing - at the height of production between 25 000 to 30 000 extras were used and during the spectacular climatic battle scene it is hard to believe that no one was actually killed. The stunning costumes are also worth mentioning, especially the masks King Baldwin wears to hide his leprosy. The battles, big and small, offered nothing new, having seen variations of those presented in recently released movies such as 'Troy'(2004) and 'Alexander'(2005), but they are still imposing and impressive, especially the long shots of the two large armies slowly heading towards one another.

There is no denying that this is a spectacular movie but it suffers at times from a convoluted narrative. There are plenty of impressive wide shots showing the true majestic nature of the land along with interior scenes that show the sumptuous surroundings of the higher classes and there are moral, political and spiritual issues dealt with that provide food for thought. Not the greatest epic ever made but still worth seeing for the sheer enormity and magnitude.

Rating : ***

Christina Bruce