Sep 20, 2013

[Movies] A Knight's Tale (2001)

As I've written before, one of the roles that I will best remember Heath Ledger for will always be A Knight's Tale. Sure he was intensely awesome as the Joker in The Dark Knight but it was this role that most endeared him to me and made him more than just a chick flick kind of actor.

There are a lot of reasons why I enjoyed this movie, but I'll try to get through them over the course of this review. To be fair, this movie is by no means perfect or some amazing elevation of film as an art form. Not all movies have to strive to that level - at the end of the day movies are about entertainment. And when you sit down for more than two hours to experience this particular movie, I'm sure you'll walk away with a smile on your face.

This movie had so much going for it. An interesting cast. A pretty good premise. And a fun mix of action, music and all that good stuff all rolled up into a great movie experience. And I don't regret getting to watch this movie over and over again whenever I get the chance or it comes up on TV.

Synopsis: A Knight's Tale is a 2001 adventure comedy written, produced and directed by Brian Helgeland. And Helgeland is the same man who wrote the screenplays for movies like L.A. Confidential and Salt.

It's the 14th century and we are introduced to three squires - William Thatcher (Heath Ledger), Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk!!!). Their master, Sir Ector, has died just before his final pass that could allow him to win a jousting tournament. Not wanting to waste all that his master had achieved, William dons Ector's armor and goes on to win the tournament posing as him. With the prize in hand, Roland and Wat are more than willing to take their share of the winnings and go their separate ways, but William is determined to continue jousting despite the fact he has no noble title, and thus no right to compete.

Grudgingly they accompany William on his way to try another tournament when the come across one destitute Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany). In exchange for their help, Chaucer goes on to forge a patent of nobility for William, thus naming him Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein from Gelderland. Over the course of the tournament, his armor is damaged and he eventually manages to enlist the aid of Kate (Laura Fraser), who is a female blacksmith that is often underestimated because of her sex. But in truth she's highly skilled and this will come in handy as William continues on his quest of sorts.

The movie is meant to be light and not some historical recreation of the era. Thus we have rock music tracks during big dance sequences and a very unique depiction of famed poet Geoffrey Chaucer. But when you get past obsessing whether or not their attire is accurate for the period or not, there's a fun little story to be had here.

Ledger naturally carries the bulk of this movie, and this is not just because a good chunk of it is spent watching him joust and get beat up over and over again. He is very much the lead here and he takes this responsibility quite well whether he's romancing lady Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon) or facing Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell) on the jousting field. And yes, he does have that adorkable, boyish quality that is best realized when he smiles and the female members of the audience swoon.

His little crew makes for a great ensemble to support him through his jousts and of course to help him rationalize a bit of his personal struggles along the way. While I would have loved it had they spent a bit more time fleshing out their characters more (especially the tight-lipped Kate), but on the whole they're still a fun group and they really help the movie along.

Admittedly I felt the whole romance between William and Jocelyn was rather secondary to his personal goal of becoming a true knight. Sure, everyone likes a decent love story, but in the end the movie really gave focus to his journey of becoming more than a commoner. It's the ultimate in childhood wish fulfillment in a way - kid swears to become a knight then attempts to attain that title throughout the course of a two hour movie. But while he does that, he has a romantic interest, he has a rival and a choice friend just at the right time.

The movie is full of interesting zingers and one-liners, rather funny exchanges and physical comedy moments, and lots of moments of Heath Ledger smiling. The movie does not become great - in fact even the ending is a little confusing (and yet oh so fulfilling at the same time). But it is fun and enjoyable and easy to slide into and slide back out of again. It's entertaining and that's all that it needs to be. And I love the movie for that.

A Knight's Tale is a good balance of action, adventure, comedy and odd period costumes. I'm glad that it was made and I'm glad that I got over my initial assumptions about Heath Ledger movies and watched this one. Thus it rates 4 magically light pieces of strong armor out of a possible 5.

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