FILM OF THE MONTH

From Sept 2001
Film Review

Recommended: Lucky Break other August releases

Film Review Hotline
A KNIGHT'S TALE
5 Stars - Excellent

A Knight's Tale: joust about perfect

Madiaeval literature

STARS: Heath Ledger, Paul Bettany, Mark Addy, Shannyn Sossamon, Rufus Sewell, Laura Fraser
DIRECTOR / SCREENPLAY: Brian Helgeland
CERTIFICATE: PG • DISTRIBUTOR & IMAGE Copyright: Columbia TriStar
RUNNING TIME: 2hrs 13mins
OPENING DATE (UK): August 31

Those of you who go to see this expecting a literal interpretation of Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale are going to be either severely disappointed or absolutely overjoyed. Although Chaucer’s in it and there’s a spot of courtly love (or courtly snogging), Canterbury doesn’t even warrant a mention in this utterly outrageous reinvention of the mediaeval tournament movie. Robin Hood, pack yer bags. Ivanhoe, sling yer hook. Prince Ulrich of Lichtenstein, the latest poster-boy for the mud and cow-pat generation, is here and he’s going to rock you until your trousers fall off.

Knight’s serf William (Ledger) and his colleagues are miffed to discover that their boss has elected to sit down under a tree and die immediately prior to an appearance on the jousting stalls. So William clambers into his former employer’s armour and fills in. Astonishingly, not only is he not killed but he does rather well for a complete incompetent and hatches a scheme whereby he and his sidekicks can make their fortune and scarper before anyone cottons on the to the fact that he’s not a real knight. With the assistance of a certain Geoff Chaucer (Bettany, who makes it his business to steal absolutely every scene he’s in) and blacksmith Kate (the utterly beguiling and woefully underused Laura Fraser), the newly christened Sir Ulrich sets out to hit people with very big sticks. From horseback.

Soon enough, he’s got his eye on the beautiful Lady Jocelyn (Sossamon), and she’s teaching him how to dance to David Bowie. This doesn’t go down at all well with the black-armoured (and therefore Very Evil) Count Ad-hemar (Sewell) who decides to knock this young upstart down a peg or three.

If the function of the summer blockbuster movie is to smack you in the face with special effects and action sequences, enchant you with beautiful photography, rivet you to your seat with tension and then make you fall out of it with laughter, A Knight’s Tale succeeds on every count. More than this, it does so with a steadfast refusal to take itself remotely seriously, its tongue wedged so hard into its cheek that it’s a wonder anyone can say their lines. A marvellous sense of fun, enthusiasm and, above all, silliness permeates the enterprise, possibly fuelled by the legendary three-week drinking binge prior to shooting in Prague, and the viewer can’t help but be caught up in it. A succession of glorious set-pieces, wonderful gags side-splittingly delivered and breath-taking jousting sequences, combined with a charming and charismatic performance from Heath Ledger, serve to make this easily one of the films of the year. They’ve even managed to find Mark Addy the role he’s been looking for since The Full Monty. Blimey!

Anyone who doesn’t love this film has something seriously wrong with them, deserves to be put in stocks and have mouldy vegetables thrown at them all day. Meanwhile, the rest of us can get on with the serious business of having fun and hitting people with big sticks. Huzzah!

Ben Woodhams

Extra: Saddle up with the cast & crew of A KNIGHT'S TALE

Read our massive reviews section in this month's Film Review
Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction.

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