The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War, and the soldiers on both sides that fought it, while their wives wait nervously and anxiously at home for the good news or the bad news.
It is the time of the Crusades during the Middle Ages - the world shaping 200-year collision between Europe and the East. A blacksmith named Balian has lost his family and nearly his faith. The religious wars raging in the far-off Holy Land seem remote to him, yet he is pulled into that immense drama. Amid the pageantry and intrigues of medieval Jerusalem he falls in love, grows into a leader, and ultimately uses all his courage and skill to defend the city against staggering odds. Destiny comes seeking Balian in the form of a great knight, Godfrey of Ibelin, a Crusader briefly home to France from fighting in the East. Revealing himself as Balian's father, Godfrey shows him the true meaning of knighthood and takes him on a journey across continents to the fabled Holy City. In Jerusalem at that moment--between the Second and Third Crusades--a fragile peace prevails, through the efforts of its enlightened Christian king, Baldwin IV, aided by his advisor Tiberias, and the military ... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Officially, the opening scene, "The Crossroads", was the first scene shot, on January 12, 2004. The little short of Godfrey's flashback, was shot unofficially, two days earlier. Balian's fight with the cavalier over the horse, was the very last scene to be shot. See more »
Throughout the siege of Jerusalem, when the defenders use projectile weapons such as bows, trebuchets, crossbows, etc., the command given to release the projectile is "Fire!". This command did not come into use until the advent of matchlock firearms in the mid-15th century. The correct command would have been "Loose!". See more »
Kingdom of Heaven is directed by Ridley Scott and written by William Monahan. It stars Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Marton Csokas, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, Alexander Siddig, David Thewlis, Ghassan Massoud and Edward Norton. Cinematography is by John Mathieson and music scored by Harry Gregson-Williams.
Director's Cut, two words that has these days come to mean a marketing ploy to get the home movie fan to part with more cash. Except maybe when they call it something else, such as Unrated Edition or Extended Edition, the Director's Cut has rarely been more than the original theatrical version with some added bits sewed back in. Case in point Ridley Scott's own Gladiator. But Scott is a big advocate of the home formats available to us, and what he says in his introduction on these releases are always telling. Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut is one of the rare cases that deserves the label, it is the cut Scott wanted and with 45 minutes extra in the film, it's now a fully formed epic and without doubt a better film than the one the theatrical cut suggested.
Nutshell plotting finds the story set during the Crusades of the 12th century. Balian (Bloom) is a French village blacksmith who after finally meeting his father Godfrey (Neeson), sets him on a course to aid the city of Jerusalem in its defence against the Muslim leader Saladin (Massoud). Saladin is battling to reclaim the city from the Christians. It's a fictionalised account of Balian de Ibelin the man, but with the Crusades featuring so rarely in movies it's good to see one with attention to detail in relation to the events and time period.
Now this version exists there is no reason to visit the theatrical cut, for although this has one or two missteps in the narrative, big holes have been plugged and characters importantly expanded. Benefiting the most are Eva Green as Sibylla, and Bloom himself as Balian. The former now gets substance on why she transforms from a measured princess to a borderline head-case, and the latter gets a back story which helps us understand why he does what he does. Both actors performances are seen in better light as their characters become more defined. Neeson and Norton, too, also get more screen time, and that can never be a bad thing.
In this day and age the topicality of the film as regards Muslims and Christians is obviously hard to ignore, but Scott and Monahan are not in the market for political posturing. Scott had long wanted to do a film about The Crusades, to make it an historical epic adventure reflecting the period, and he has achieved that without head banging messages. In fact the culmination of the films major battle comes by way of tolerance, compassion and mutual respect, not by over the top histrionics or side picking. It's a crucial point to note that the makers have not demonized the Arab leaders, both Saladin and Nasir (Siddig) are portrayed as intelligent and cultured men of standing. Their drive and determination coming off as respectful as Balian's defence of Jerusalem is. They also provide the film with two of its best acting performances. Impressive considering the film is full of very good acting turns.
It will come as no surprise to fans of Scott's work to find that Kingdom of Heaven is tremendous on production value. Filled out with astonishing visuals and no overuse of CGI, it's arguably Scott's best production: it's certainly his most ambitious. Filmed in Spain and Morocco, the makers easily whisk us back centuries to the France and Jerusalem of the time, the ability to plant us firmly in the time frame is not to be understated. Mathieson (Gladiator) is a big part of that, his colour lensing for France (metallic cold blues) and Jerusalem (dusky yellow and brown hues) is a visual treat and integral to the feel of the story. While Gregson-Williams' score rarely gets a mention, but it's very at one with Scott's vision, a delightful mix of ethnic strains, mystical flair and medieval emphasis. Scott also ups the ante for visceral battles, the horrors of war never more vivid as they are here. Supremely constructed, the siege of Jersualem is one of the finest in cinema, the first sight of fireballs igniting the night sky bringing the hairs on the back of the neck standing to attention. It's just one of many great moments that form part of Scott's breath taking epic.
Badly treated on cinema release by the studio, who even marketed that cut badly, Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut is these days worthy of a revisit and deeper inspection. For rich rewards await the genre faithful. 9.5/10
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