6.1/10
951
12 user 5 critic

The Headsman (2005)

Trailer
1:50 | Trailer
Director Simon Aeby's epic film chronicles the time-tested loyalty of two friends during Europe's 16th-century Inquisition. Orphans Martin (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Georg (Peter McDonald)... See full summary »

Director:

Simon Aeby
Reviews
1 nomination. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Himmerland (2008)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.2/10 X  

An American travels to Europe to unravel the mystery surrounding his sister's death.

Director: James Barclay
Stars: James Barclay, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Julie R. Ølgaard
Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Religious and cultural reawakening inspires rebellion in a 19th century Norwegian village.

Director: Nils Gaup
Stars: Mikkel Gaup, Anni-Kristiina Juuso, Aslat Mahtte Gaup
Blekingegade (TV Mini-Series 2009)
Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

The Blekinge Street Gang (Blekingegadebanden) was a group of left-wing extremists who performed various spectacular robberies in Copenhagen in the 1980s. The money from the robberies went ... See full summary »

Stars: Ulrich Thomsen, Thure Lindhardt, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Action | Adventure | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

Danish psychiatrist Adrian (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and his assistant Beate (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) are sent to Sumatra in order to make a mental health evaluation of murder convict Severin, ... See full summary »

Director: Tomas Villum Jensen
Stars: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Supervoksen (2006)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  

Three teenage girls create their own rite of passage into adulthood, forcing one another to face sexual challenges and cross many boundaries.

Director: Christina Rosendahl
Stars: Emma Leth, Cathrine Bjørn, Amalie Lindegård
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

Based on a true story the film tells the story of Svend who fights to save his elderly parents' marriage even though it has made his life almost unbearable. When he meets Lizzie he ... See full summary »

Director: Jesper W. Nielsen
Stars: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Iben Hjejle, Per Oscarsson
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5/10 X  

Isabella is 30 and single. Her friends have fancy careers, getting married and so on. She is a freelance actor. In her CV, among other merits, she claims being an acrobat. One little lie will leads to another. Bigger.

Director: Hannes Holm
Stars: Martina Haag, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Ellen Jelinek
Biography | Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

Erik Nietzsche is an intelligent but in many ways inexperienced shy young man who is convinced that he wants to be a film director. In the late 1970s, Erik is accepted by the Danish ... See full summary »

Director: Jacob Thuesen
Stars: Jonatan Spang, David Dencik, Carl Martin Norén
The Baker (2007)
Comedy | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A hit man has second thoughts about his career and seeks refuge from his boss by finding work as a baker in a rural Welsh village.

Director: Gareth Lewis
Stars: Damian Lewis, Kate Ashfield, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Blackthorn (2011)
Action | Adventure | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

In Bolivia, Butch Cassidy (now calling himself James Blackthorn) pines for one last sight of home, an adventure that aligns him with a young robber and makes the duo a target for gangs and lawmen alike.

Director: Mateo Gil
Stars: Sam Shepard, Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Rea
Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.2/10 X  

Rebecca has inherited her grandmother's Gothic mansion and brings both her best friend an her boyfriend for a weekend. While exploring the crypts they discover an old dusty book, which ... See full summary »

Director: Shaky González
Stars: Maria Stokholm, Mette Louise Holland, Tomas Villum Jensen
Action | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

A gang of small-time crooks screws up. Ripping off a Chinese shipping container, they find heroin belonging to Latvian mafia. A friend of theirs, a nice cop, tries to mediate, acting in good faith.

Director: Lasse Spang Olsen
Stars: Kim Bodnia, René Dif, Nicolas Bro
Edit

Cast

Credited cast:
Steven Berkoff ... Inquisitor
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau ... Martin
Julie Cox ... Margaretha
Lili Gesler Lili Gesler ... Librarian's daughter
Patrick Godfrey ... Bertram
Anastasia Griffith ... Anna
Maria Hofstätter Maria Hofstätter ... Maria
Lee Ingleby ... Bernhard
Eddie Marsan ... Fabio
Joe Mason Joe Mason ... Jakob
Peter McDonald ... Georg
John Shrapnel ... Archbishop
Edit

Storyline

Director Simon Aeby's epic film chronicles the time-tested loyalty of two friends during Europe's 16th-century Inquisition. Orphans Martin (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Georg (Peter McDonald) bond as children, but walk very different paths as adults. Georg follows his calling to join the church, while Martin becomes an army captain. When fate places Martin in the role of executioner, he must choose between friendship and fundamentalist doctrine. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence and a scene of sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Official Sites:

Official site

Language:

English

Release Date:

20 January 2006 (Austria) See more »

Also Known As:

Henker See more »

Filming Locations:

Austria See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$8,500,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(DVD)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Rather unusually, instead of listing all the cast members in the end credits, it mentions all the top players and then reads "and many many more". See more »

Soundtracks

Asperges Me Domine
Written by Matthias Weber
Performed by Dufay Ensemble Freiburg
Recorded by Manuel Braun
Published by Point Dume Musikverlag
Licensed by kind permission from Point Dume Musikverlag
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
The Headsman proves a nice surprise
16 January 2007 | by LadyLibertySee all my reviews

I like history. Sometimes I read it. Sometimes I watch documentaries. And occasionally, a movie with enough realism to keep my addiction satisfied at the same time I'm entertained will surface. From the descriptions I read of Shadow of the Sword, I had some small hope it might be one of those movies. You can't imagine how delighted I was when that turned out to be the case.

In the Europe of the 1500's, the Catholic Church was almost literally all powerful. It was involved in every facet of every life, from the ceremonial to the governmental to the day-by-day. It's only natural that the church — for both reasons of charity as well as the replenishment of the priesthood — would take charge of orphaned boys. Martin and Georg are two such children. Raised together and raising hell together, the two are close friends until they day they're old enough to be separated into training for their adult responsibilities.

Georg (Peter McDonald) is taken by the Archbishop (John Shrapnel) where he is groomed to return to his home town as the prior of the local monastery. Meanwhile, Martin (Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau) becomes a soldier for the empires and achieves the rank of captain. After some fifteen years apart, Martin finds himself camped near his former home and he takes the opportunity to visit his old friend. The two men are delighted to see each other and spend a few hours catching up.

Martin, however, has one more errand he to run. He's been wounded in the fighting and needs medical care. After a brief chance meeting in the village, Martin discovers a pretty local girl named Anna (Anastasia Griffith) who, among other things, is reputed to be a witch and a healer. When Martin visits her in her remote home, he discovers two things: he loves her, and her father is the local executioner. The former is difficult at best since he's got to leave with his troops in the morning. The latter is almost as much of a problem since executioners are considered untouchable by the rest of the citizens.

Eventually, Martin is released from his duties and he returns to Anna only to find that her father has died. With little else for which he's qualified, Martin reluctantly takes over as executioner and soon finds himself a very busy man. The Catholic Church has virtually no tolerance for dissent, and punishments are harsh at best. Things only get worse when the Archbishop demands that Georg tighten up his control of the local populace and leaves an Inquisitor (Steven Berkhoff) behind to ensure that that's what happens.

Soon enough, the old friends are caught up in a battle of conscience, fear, and power that can only partly be solved by getting to the bottom of their own secret past. But time is short, betrayal looms, and failure means banishment or death for them and those they love.

The casting in Shadow of the Sword is excellent. You believe in Martin's strength and courage even as you entirely buy into Georg's innate piety. While that has something to do with the look of the men chosen to fill these roles, it's primarily due to the fact that Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau and Peter McDonald are very capable actors, the former in particular. Anastasia Griffith holds her own and John Shrapnel is terrific every time he's on screen, but my pick for most impressive performance comes from Julie Cox in a relatively small but pivotal role as the prostitute Margaretha.

The script was quite good, and the sets, costumes, and make-up effects were even better. The only real complaint I have about Shadow of the Sword involves a number of terribly jarring edits. I suspect these were made in an effort to lower the running time (almost two hours), but too many were too careless. I would have much preferred to have a longer movie. Besides, since what I saw was pretty good, I can only imagine that much of what I didn't see was pretty good, too.

The bottom line: Shadow of the Sword isn't perfect. But it's interesting and entertaining, and that's plenty. I liked this movie, and those with an interest in drama, history, or both will find something there for them, too.

POLITICAL NOTES: Even Catholics will likely confess that the church isn't always right. But it's rarely been more wrong than it was during the course of the Crusades and the later Inquisition. The Catholic Church has obviously mellowed and learned from some of its mistakes. But it's apparent that not everybody has. It seems that the word "crusade" and all of its inherent evils can be crudely translated as being synonymous with "jihad."

The fundamentalist Islam war on everybody who isn't a Muslim has nothing and everything in common with what the church did so long ago, and certainly Shari'a has an appalling amount in common with the techniques of the Inquisition we now so roundly condemn. Shadow of the Sword shows both the politics and the lust for control behind such campaigns all too clearly, and the graphic results offer up some lessons we'd do well to continue to remember today.

FAMILY SUITABILITY: Shadow of the Sword is rated R for "violence and a scene of sexuality." This is not a movie I'd recommend your children see. Some scenes of torture, while not gratuitous, are quite graphic and more than a little difficult to watch. The subject matter is also likely beyond the understanding of younger kids. I'd recommend Shadow of the Sword only for those age 14 or so and up. I'd also recommend that, if you and your family do see the movie, you have a little conversation afterward about just what religious fanaticism means for the fate of freedom, and that you do your best to take those lessons to heart!


46 of 52 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 12 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page



Recently Viewed