Sunday, October 02, 2011
I'd been wanting to see the movie Ironclad since seeing some footage from it while the film was still in production. Finally got around to watching it yesterday and it didn't disappoint. This is a brutal, bloody, historical film chocked full of action. Based loosely on the real life 1215 siege of Rochester Castle, Ironclad features James Purefoy (Rome, Solomon Kane) as a disgraced Knight Templar, who thought his fighting days were over, but who suddenly finds himself stuck in a hopeless battle against impossible odds.
In a lot of ways, the movie reminded me of a David Gemmell novel. Purefoy's character, Thomas Marshal, arrives at the castle with a ragtag group of mercenaries. There's the big strong guy, the slightly crazy guy, the rogue, and the archer of amazing skill. These are characters right out of Legend of Quest for Lost Heroes or Winter Warriors.
King John (Richard's brother) has just reneged on the Magna Carta and he shows up at Rochester Castle with a thousand mercenaries and Marshal and his crew must hold the castle until the rebels can bring more troops. Luckily for Marshal, the castle is extremely well designed and can be held by a small force. (In real life it was hunger that beat the besieged, not force.)
If you like siege films, you'll probably enjoy this one. There are catapults and sappers and archers and boiling oil. All the stuff one expects in this sort of story. Purefoy is good as the tormented hero and Paul Giamatti chews the scenery as King John. Derek Jacobi is on board to lend the film a little class. Other cast members include Jamie Foreman, who played the misguided father in the Doctor Who episode The Idiot's Lantern, and Jason Flemyng, who's currently a regular on Primeval. Oh, and Vladimir Kulich playing a Viking looking very much like the Viking he played in The 13th Warrior. Guy must have Viking on his resume.
The film is shot in an almost documentary style, lending a realism to it that a lot of historical films lack. It is very gory, so definitely not one for the kids. I wouldn't call Ironclad a great film but I enjoyed it quite a bit. I understand that it had a fairly limited budget, so it's pretty impressive, especially in the face of something like, oh I don't know...CONAN. In fact, as I watched this film I couldn't help but think that director Jonathan English could have done a decent Conan film with the same budget as Ironclad and a good script. Oh well.