Orlando Bloom downs his blacksmithing tools and takes up medieval armoury in a Crusade to create a Kingdom of Conscience in the Holy Land.
For a spectacular lesson in the origins of the world’s longest running imperialistic battle, you’ve got to check out Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven. This impressive epic is set in between the second and third Crusades circa 1184 and it explores the nature of fanaticism and how easily it can propel extremists into a never ending cycle of brutality. Thankfully, our hero Balian is not one of them.
Grieving over the suicide of his wife after the death of their child, Balian (Orlando Bloom) is struggling to live by his motto; ‘what is a man who does not try to make the world better?’. When a knight called Godfrey (Liam Neeson) pays him a visit and reveals that he is his father, Balian slays an evil priest and follows in his dad’s murderous yet loyal footsteps.
After a quick lesson in how to wield a sword, a battle ensues in which Balian proves himself to be a born warrior and is anointed into the elite force by an unnamed angelic character played by David Thewlis. His destiny is set on the road to Jerusalem where he hopes to erase his sins and those of his wife. But this being the sort of ‘test movie’ that it is, our hero must overcome many obstacles along the way, not the least of which is a fierce combat over a horse with a territorial Muslim (Ghassan Massoud) who notes his courage and avows to spread word of it among his enemies.
Balian wants to put his efforts into the creation of peace in the Holy Land and is enlisted by Tiberius (Jeremy Irons) to help achieve it. But there are fanatics on both sides of the religious divide using their respective faiths as an excuse to wage war and, as we know, that’s a powerful force. Edward Norton is the Leper King Baldwin whose liberal countenance is being eaten away beneath a silver mask, and Aussie actor Marton Csokas is his power crazed brother-in-law clamouring for blood while his wife, Princess Sybilla (Eva Green) is irresistibly drawn to the agnostic Balian.
The dream of a peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims is at the heart of this historical epic but the irony of it all is that it’s drenched in bloody warfare. I guess peace isn’t exactly dramatic entertainment. King Mohamed V1 of Morocco lent 1500 military personnel to director Ridley Scott, who’d shot his previous films Gladiator and Black Hawk Down in the same location near Ouarzazate. And with their involvement, he convincingly conjurs up the 13-day siege of Jerusalem, in all its chilling detail.
With amazing production design by Arthur Max, 15,000 detailed period costumes designed by Janty Yates and superb cinematography by John Mathieson, this is a movie of biblical proportions. It originally ran over 3 hours but was cut down for its theatrical release, losing many good scenes I’m sure along the way. Still, what we’re left with is a ripping good yarn about one man’s journey to find his noble purpose, and the historical echo of that never ending tragedy that is the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. As Balian says when preparing to fight the Saracen army, “We fight over an offence we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended.” Ain’t it the truth.Get Kingdom