A Knight’s Tale (2001)

A Knight’s Tale (2001)

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The plans for Reservoir Dogs: Medieval Edition were quickly shelved.
The plans for Reservoir Dogs: Medieval Edition were quickly shelved.

Twitter Plot Summary: William, a peasant squire, takes his dead master’s armour and seeks fortune and glory in the world of jousting.

Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama/Romance

Director: Brian Helgeland

Key Cast: Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Rufus Sewell, Paul Bettany, James Purefoy, Shannyn Sossamon, Laura Fraser, Berenice Bejo, Christophre Cazenove, Steven O’Donnell

Five Point Summary:

1. Queen in Medieval times? Oh hell yeah.
2. Training montage!
3. Did he just say he was going to see a man about a dog? Hah.
4. Obligatory villain “practising sword-fighting without his top on” scene.
5. And the even more obligatory final, almost impossible showdown with said villain.

A Knight’s Tale stars Heath Ledger, sporting his best English accent and is another example of what the acting world has lost – an incredible talent. Taking us back to the world of jousting, honour, and a lack of fresh running water, we join squires William (Ledger), Roland (Addy) and Wat (Tudyk) moments after their lord has died in his armour. Realising that they can make a bit of money out of the whole jousting thing, William dons the armour of his lord and takes his place in the arena. Naturally, he’s not very good to begin with, but after a fun training montage he has all the necessary skills in which to compete. He’s also a dab hand in a sword fight. Rather handy traits to have. In their bid to finally get back to England (they’re in France, as it happens), the group follow the jousting circuit as it slowly winds its way north.

Concessions have to be made of course in some areas. Villain Count Adhemar is a barely drawn character, villainous for villainy’s sake. He’s easily defined as the bad guy because he’s the one who dresses in black the entire time. Our troupe of heroes are more clearly defined – William is the young man who’s father sent him away as a child to seek his fortune – the economy apparently hasn’t improved much since the medieval period. Sidekicks Roland and Wat have little depth beyond being incredibly loyal to William, but both Mark Addy and Alan Tudyk put enough into them to at least make them a fun presence. The real fun comes from Paul Bettany’s Chaucer, a man with a gambling problem but an incredible talent with words. Such a talent in fact that he is able to build up William’s public appearance simply through is wordy and verbose descriptions of him before every jousting tournament. Chaucer is by far the funniest character of the bunch and Bettany clearly has a good time playing him. The only remaining character in the group is Laura Fraser’s Kate, a female blacksmith. Unfortunately she’s nowhere near as developed a character as her Lydia from Breaking Bad, so her only real contribution to the story is fancy armour for William and teaching him how to dance. No barriers are being broken down here.

Guess which one's the bad guy? Clue: he and his horse are dressed all in black.
Guess which one’s the bad guy? Clue: he and his horse are dressed all in black.

Whilst Adhemar is busy plotting evils against our William, the main theme is that you don’t have to be born into power in order to be a noble and brave person. Pretty standard stuff in that respect, but it’s not something we’re bludgeoned over the head with. William finds love with the regal Jocelyn, although this is complicated by Adhemar’s slimy advances on her. It’s further complicated by William’s complete lack of understanding with how women work – first she wants him to fight, then she doesn’t, then she does, etc. Sounds like too much hard work to be honest… It might not be historically accurate, but it’s a lot of fun and captures the feeling of how jousting was looked upon in the medieval era, the equivalent to a rock concert today. Rather cannily director Brian Helgeland uses modern music (including the regal majesty that is Queen) to enforce on modern audiences the emotional reactions of those living in that era of history. If nothing else it’s great to see a “medieval” audience rocking along to We Will Rock You. This film also emphasises how ginger Alan Tudyk really is. Seriously, it’s a scarily red mop of hair atop his bonce, so it is.

Favourite scene: Chaucer’s verbose introduction of William to the masses.

Quote: “We’re the sons of peasants. Glory, and riches, and stars are beyond our grasps. But a full stomach, that dream can come true.”

Silly Moment: Chaucer’s propensity for nudity, intended or otherwise.

Score: 3.5/5

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