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Mud, blood and lots of ambition
Ced Yuen4 March 2011
There are plenty of lower-budget independent films that have gone on to be more critically acclaimed and more financially profitable than big-budget Hollywood pictures. What is rare, however, is an indie film that masquerades as one of these pictures. A self-labelled "all- star indie action blockbuster" and "inspired by history",'Ironclad' is such a film, trying to redefine the boundaries of British cinema.

Whether by intention or by coincidence, 'Ironclad' picks up a few years after the end of Ridley Scott's 'Robin Hood'. It is England, 1215. King John (Paul Giamatti) has been forced to sign the Magna Carta, which limits his power and ensures the freedom of men.

With the help of a Danish army, the King rampages across the country to regain absolute power. Baron Albany (Brian Cox) and a band of rebels take Rochester Castle in an attempt to stop the tyrant king. A siege takes place, and the rebels must hold the castle until reinforcements arrive.

The film certainly ticks many of the boxes of an action blockbuster. There's a clear "big bad guy vs. underdog good guy" vibe, plenty of action, and some veterans among the B-list cast. The $25 million budget, although pocket change in Hollywood, shows how badly this indie film wants to be big. A big film, however, is not necessarily a good film.

'Ironclad' is at its strongest when it comes to the physical side of things. It does not shy away from gory violence. Heads, hands and feet go flying, blood splatters all over the the camera's lens, and there's a particularly nasty bit involving a man and a catapult. The weapons feel like instruments of destruction rather than Medieval-chic accessories, and often succeed in making viewers wince.

The fight choreography is particularly impressive - characters look like soldiers trying to tear each others' hearts out, as opposed to actors trying to high-five each other's swords. The action sacrifices style and appearance for physicality and brutality, which results in a refreshing level of authenticity.

The 13th century England recreated looks good enough to fool anyone but a history buff. Giamatti and Cox play their roles with conviction and succeed in getting the story moving. Giamatti is particularly watchable, playing King John as an unhinged sadist.

The narrative is where 'Ironclad' falters. Fully aware that the film is essentially about a group of soldiers in a building, the writers have tried to spice things up. One of the rebels (James Purefoy) happens to be a Templar Knight. He regrets killing people for God, so he goes on a diet of silence and chastity, the latter of which is tested (of course) by the lady of the castle (Kate Mara). These are ill-advised attempts at emotional content and only serve to distract from what should have been a simpler, more polished affair.

Regrettably, the filmmakers decided to emulate that most repulsive staple of modern action blockbusters - the shaky-cam. Specifically namechecking 'Transformers 2' and the 'Bourne' sequels as influences (not a good sign), they decided to shake the picture to create "a very real sense of action".

What is achieved instead is a very real sense of frustration every time the action is made unnecessarily incoherent. Once again, the "Michael Bay Effect" has ruined a film that would have otherwise looked excellent, and wasted the work of an obviously talented action choreographer.

Despite its flaws, fans of mud'n'blood, hack'n'slash mini-epics will find plenty to like in 'Ironclad'. It is comparable to 'Robin Hood' despite costing $130 million less to make. Director Jonathan English wanted to create an action blockbuster. In terms of scale and ambition, he has succeeded. But blockbusters aren't perfect, and neither is this.
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Certainly worth watching
macca19733827 July 2011
Firstly I am quite realistic about my expectations when a historical movie is made. Real history does not generally run smoothly nor is it engaging enough to fit conveniently into a 2 hour movie, so I refuse to nick-pick a screen writer for adding a little poetic license into a script or for the costume designer who doesn't have the time or resources to get the actors "just right".

With this in mind, I found the story enjoyable and it ran more or less historically and at a good pace, I was certainly never given enough pause to consider boredom. The fight scenes were very good and I agree with other criticisms on the reviews about the shaking camera making it extremely hard to concentrate on what was happening.

There was plenty of blood, limbs and sliced heads to appeal to the gore fest/action fans but it seemed to accurately reflect the face of medieval warfare with its close and gruesome nature.

The cast were a list of well known and respected actors, all of whom put in a good display with what they were given with Paul Giamatti's rant about the divinity of Kings being especially engaging.

Overall its not a classic nor will it win awards, but for a couple of hours action based escapism it is certainly worth the effort of watching and is far superior to a number of bigger budget Hollywood contemporaries.
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Rascal King John and the Medieval Magnificent Seven.
Spikeopath11 July 2012
Ironclad is directed by Jonathan English who also wrote the story and co-adapts the screenplay with Erick Kastel and Stephen McDool. It stars James Purefoy, Brian Cox, Derek Jacobi, Kate Mara, Paul Giamatti, Jason Flemyng, Mackenzie Crook, Jamie Foreman and Vladimir Kulich. Music is scored by Lorne Balfe and cinematography by David Eggby.

1215 and having been forced to sign the Magna Carta, King John (Giamatti) enlists an army of Danish mercenaries and plots revenge against all involved. As John lays bloody waste to the South of England, a small band of rebels led by William d'Aubigny (Cox), plot to defend the Southern stronghold of Rochester Castle in the hope they can delay John long enough for the French army to arrive from the sea to depose him.

The history, as is often the case in movies of this ilk, is sketchy and exaggerated, we are in true cinematic granted licence here as Rochester Castle is defended by less then 20 men and a couple of gals (in truth there was a considerable army defending Rochester). Yet Ironclad's sheer willingness to blend historical and period notices with blood and mud is very appealing to the swords and shields genre fan. The recreation of 13th century England is most impressive, as is the adherence to the brutality of the times. Armour and swords do clank with aural sharpness, quickly followed by blood and dismemberment; the body horror is certainly not in short supply throughout the running time. The colour is deliberately muted to capture a realistic feel, and although the shaky-cam technique used for the fight scenes (is this now written in the historical epic director's 101 handbook?) will irritate many, it does aid the grit and grue atmosphere that director English goes for. In fact he has achieved much with only a modest budget.

A splendid cast has assembled for the production, all thankfully attired with thought from the costume department. Purefoy cuts a fine rugged figure of machismo, brooding for all he's worth as he battles not only the enemy, but also his own duel with his Templar faith. Cox is, no surprise, full of gusto and leadership qualities, and the likes of Flemyng (whore chaser as brave as a lion), Crook (ace archer) and Foreman (no fear thief) add considerable grungy brawn to proceedings. Charles Dance and Jacobi lend thespian support and Kulich is a towering presence as axe wielding leader of the Danes, Tiberius. Highlight, though, is Giamatti. True enough to say that as written it's a portrait of a vicious King we have seen plenty of times before, but Giamatti elevates this one to better heights with a glint in his eye and thunderous moments of anger. For his delivery of "I am God's right hand" speech this begs respect. His accent holds as well, always a bonus is that.

Where the picture falls down is with a script that contains duff passages of dialogue and the obligatory romance thread. Poor Kate Mara (stepping in when Megan Fox scampered from the production), it's a thankless role that basically asks her to turn the head of Purefoy's Templar Knight, hitch up her skirt and look wistful from time to time, while having Cox bellow out that John "is no more a King than the boil on my arse" hinders rather than aids the mood. But English and the makers get away with the missteps because it's such good rousing fun, a nifty blend of religion, politics and bloody war. The siege itself is very well orchestrated, as catapult engines bombard the castle, arrows penetrate the sky, men leap around on fire or scolded by hot oil, and there's interesting facts and tricks etched into the narrative too (burning of pigs a weapon of war?!). It may never quite reach the ambitions it sets itself, but in an era when swords and shields movies are in short supply, it's an entertaining and bloody romp for sure. 7.5/10
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A bloody siege.
lewiskendell27 September 2011
Ironclad is a fictionalized medieval war movie set in Britain during the second rebellion against King John, brought about by his dismissal of the Magna Carta he was forced to sign in the first rebellion against him and his attempts to punish those who forced him to sign it. 

The movie is basically about a Templar and a small group of soldiers who are attempting to hold Rochester Castle, the key to southern England, against the siege of John's superior army and Danish mercenaries. Ironclad is nothing special, but it's entertaining enough. There are a few faces you'll probably recognize among the cast, like Brian Cox, Paul Giamatti, and Kate Mara. I doubt any of the actors or actresses will be up for many awards (though Giamatti, as King John, does get a memorable scene or three), but they do good enough jobs that I had no complaints. 

The look of the film is reminiscent of other recent similarly set action movies, like Black Death and Centurion. Very bleak, grey, and violent. Blood splashes all over the place during the frequent battle scenes, limbs are hacked off, and gaping wounds abound. This isn't a movie for the squeamish.

As I mentioned before, Ironclad isn't a huge step forward for this kind of film, but it succeeds well enough at what it attempts to do for me to give it a positive review. See it, if you're interested. 
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OK, But is Jonathan English... English?
Tiw Lado10 August 2011
...And here's what I mean: The movie is absolutely watchable (if you are a fan of historical action, medieval theme and hack n' slash of course). The Battle scenes are shot perfectly. Costumes are not 100% authentic, but not so fantasy-driven as other "historical" movies tend to create these days, but: In places the movie raises the question: did the director any historical research prior to arm his team with cameras and lights or not at all? How, being English, is possible to not know own history if not in details, than at least to some degree? The case here is not about "artistic freedom", that sometimes demands to sacrifice realism or fact to make an art better. The inaccuracies occur here in places, where there aren't any necessity of them.

The rip-offs from the other movies were obvious as well. I don't know whether the authors really did intend to make "medieval magnificent seven" but if they did, they failed. Each character in Magnificent Seven is someone you deeply care. Someone you deeply know. Someone who you never forget. Each of them is unique.

Here: They are seven as well. They have one womanizer. They have on guy who throws knifes. They have one unexperienced youngster who asks for the trouble. They have one huge guy who chops wood when the group is approaching him... But that's it. That's where similarities end. Neither of these characters have any charisma.

Out of two main villains, one plays it's part really good, while other has not much to do except swinging the huge Axe.

Templar - the main protagonist of the movie, is played well as well... but again, his character is cliché as well and not as deep as writers could have imagined. (No fault of the actor here. He worked with what he had).

Plot is simple and somewhat unrealistic. 7 heroes, together with random 11 soldiers are guarding the castle from thousands of bad guys. (One English king and whining Danes who run at the first sight of blood among their ranks.

Bad guys need castle so badly because it's on the strategic spot on the English map and if King who regrets signing Magna Carta wants to rule autocratically once again, he must take it at all costs.

Here you will need all your suspend of disbelief to not raise the questions such as: why the rebels have sent only 7 men with questionable reputation to hold such an important spot...

Overall, like I said in the beginning of this review, the movie is watchable. If you're looking for some good action, blood and gore, you'll get what you paid for. If you're history buff though and easily offended about historical inaccuracies, you can avoid this one.
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Historic events should not be changed this much. Although...FIGHT!!!
silverdragon49 January 2012
OK. Ironclad. First comment, Blood and Guts. And lots of it. One thing did bug me was it's somewhat historic inaccuracy. If you are making a film about a well documented piece of history, get it right and don't sacrifice it in an attempt at a good story. The fighting scenes, in which there are many, seemed quite realistic. Extreme amount of blood, severed limbs and heads.

To be honest, not much else to the film except some good old fashioned hand to hand combat. Not one of these films where you have to watch and listen to everything. Just feel free to turn off your brain for a couple of hours and enjoy. If you are after a good storyline, look elsewhere. If you just want to see a good old Hack and Slash, which I found OK, then this is for you.

Remember, if you going to make a film based on real events, no matter how loosely, don't change most of important historical characters and for gods sake, don't change the outcome!! It's as bad as making a film of the Battle of the Little Bighorn showing Custer winning over the Indians and surviving!!
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Tip top medieval English gore-flick
mikelang4212 August 2011
This hack and slash classy English historical movie set in the year 1215, tells the mostly true story of the vile King John,played with wonderful abandon by the great actor Paul Giamatti with a perfect English accent,who for reasons to many for this review lays siege to Rochester Castle in Kent.The castle looks the real deal, but it was built for the film in the beautiful countryside of Wales.The budget was small in USA terms,£20 million, but the film looks fantastic and belies it's low budget.The main theme music by Paul Brady is beautiful.The cast is the cream of British actors, the likes of James Purefoy,Brian Cox,Derek Jacobi,Charles Dance and Jason Fleming.Mackenzie Crook and new young actor Aneurin Barnard shine in supporting roles along with female lead Kate Mara.It is a very gory movie with proper stunt work rather than reliance on CGI.Here in UK it got a 15 cert.If you like this sort of film, think a smaller version of El Cid, then your in for a treat.For reasons i don't understand this cracking good film sat on a shelf for over a year to get a release.In my view, a must see.
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Ultraviolent 13th-century action yarn with breathtaking battles including lots of blood and gore
ma-cortes27 May 2012
Bloody version based on historical events with overwhelming battles and great production values with James Purefoy as the fictional Templar knight Thomas Marshall , leader of a motley crew of tough , battle-hardened warriors/underdogs who try to defend a castle besieged by the army of the blood-crazed King John . In 13th-century England, some of the most important barons engaged in open rebellion against the King of England , as they have forced their cruel King John (Paul Giamatti who filmed his role in 7 days) to put his royal seal to the Magna Carta in the year 1215 . Magna Carta was the first document forced onto an English King by a group of his subjects, the feudal barons, in an attempt to limit his powers by law and protect their privileges .In return for King John's submission to his papal and universal authority, Innocent III declared the Magna Carta annulled, though many English Barons did not accept this action. Yet within months of pledging himself to the great charter , the King reneged on his word and assembled a mercenary army formed by Danish warriors (led by Vladimir Kulich in a similar character to The 13º warrior) on the south coast of England with the intention of bringing the barons and the country back under his despotic rule . As a small group of Knights (Brian Cox , Jason Flemyng , Jamie Foreman , Mackenzie Crook) commanded by Marshal (James Purefoy) fight to defend Rochester Castle against the nasty King John . Barring his way stood the mighty Rochester castle whose owner was the Baron Cornhill (Derek Jacobi married to Kate Mara) , a place that would turn the symbol of the rebel's momentous fight for honor and freedom .

The movie has great action sequences well staged with stylish and vitality , thrills , a little bit of romance and is pretty entertaining . Although is a little revisionist about characters , history and time when is developed the action in a dirty , gritty Middle Age . As the movie makes a big deal out of the supposedly deathly rivalry between John and the Templars , there wasn't one , the actual John awarded the Templars special privileges , including exemption from all taxation and extraordinary protection of their ownerships and in 1215, when this movie is set , the Templars let John use their headquarters , the New Temple in London, as a treasury . King John stayed there often, and stored the crown jewels and his top-secret documents there , as ¨Ironclad¨ has this entirely wrong . Stunning battles scenes illuminate the full-blown feats with a plethora of engaging action set pieces on the combats in which the heads and limbs are slice off here and there . Casting is frankly excellent . Special mention to treacherous , despised king John magnetically performed by Paul Giamatti as an evil and crazed ruler in a sensationalistic interpretation .Despite some critics' complete and utter distaste for the film , I found it entertaining , well-acted, and fast-paced . There are great action sequences including the battle against an impressive fortress and the final confrontation at the climax of the film . Impeccable and evocative cinematography by David Eggby . Magnificent and thrilling musical score by Lorne Balfe . In production a sequel also directed by Jonathan English (Minotaur) and Steven McDool who penned the story which will center on one of the few survivors of the Great Siege of Rochester Castle who is now fighting to protect his family's estate from fierce Celtic raiders .

The picture deals with historical facts about John Lackland who was king of England from 1199 to 1216. Few monarchs have been subject to such appalling publicity as John . Although by no means lovable , he was an able administrator and spent more time in England than his predecessor and elder brother Richard I but he was jailed by Leopold of Austria, returning from Crusades. Being dead king Henry II , then Richard Lionheart was crowned until the third crusade which was crowned John with no Land . The English domain over France will cause length conflict known the hundred years wars(1339-1453). Some barons began to conspire against King John in 1209 and 1212 ; promises made to the northern barons and John's submission to universal rule of the papacy in 1213 delayed a French invasion . Over the course of his reign a combination of higher taxes, unsuccessful wars that resulted in the loss of English barons' titled possessions in Normandy following the Battle of Bouvines (1214), and an ongoing conflict with the Pope Innocent III had made King John unpopular with many of his baron s. The 1215 charter , a seminal document that upheld the rights of free-men , required tyrannical King John of England to proclaim certain liberties , and accept that his will was not arbitrary, for example by explicitly accepting that no "freeman" (in the sense of non-serf) could be punished except through the law of the land, a right which is still in existence today.
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437th Review: Blood and Valour (But mostly blood)
intelearts10 July 2011
Definitely shot in a Ridley Scott fashion this is an effective medieval pot-boiler with some moral vision and lots and lots of gruesome full-on combat scenes - without a doubt some of the more bone-crunching, blood squelching fights of recent memory.

Is a great movie? No. It never quite delivers on its promise, and though extremely competent it just can't quite produce that true magic that better films can. It is, however, a highly competent and interesting historical drama. I have some quibbles with costuming etc; but that kind of goes with the territory.

All in all, this is a full-on medieval siege account of the Siege of Rochester -it is well made is most respects and if medieval battles are your thing then you'll be into it.
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An armour-plated turkey
syntinen25 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
If you've always wanted to see what if would look like if someone hacked off another guy's arm and bashed him over the head with the soggy end (yes, really), Ironclad is probably the film you've been waiting for all your life.

Otherwise, it is a waddling armour-plated turkey; after its very limited release it's likely to go straight to DVD for the benefit of adolescents who enjoy graphic violence for its own sake.

Jonathan English, the writer and director, read the interpretive panels at Rochester Castle and said "Wow! The bloodiest siege in English history! Hands and feet lopped off! Pigs slaughtered! We can make a Really Gritty and Realistic Movie out of this! Show what medieval violence was Really Like!"

Except of course they didn't, and perhaps couldn't; because the thing about sieges is that they consist of hundreds of people occasionally fighting each other, parleying or lobbing rocks and boiling oil at each other, but mostly just sitting about starving for a Very Long Time. To make a gripping film about that would take a truly gifted and original storyteller, which these guys are not. So they started putting in stuff to spice it up, and be damned not only to history but common sense too.

  • It's established at the outset that the rebels . So you'd think they'd send all their forces there, yes? Er, no. One baron collects together four oddball Old Comrades, his naive young squire, and a Templar Knight with a 5 ½-foot two-hand sword (yes, just like Braveheart, never mind that those won't exist for 100 years at least) who has lost his faith on Crusade; and the seven of them ride off to hold Rochester against John's army.

  • When they get there, they find that the elderly castellan, in spite of there being a civil war on, has only got six soldiers to man it (and a hot young wife, naturally).

  • And (because "Flemish mercenaries" and "John's French vassals" doesn't sound evil enough) John's army consists of pagan Danes (never mind that in 1215 Denmark had been Christian for centuries) who prepare themselves for battle by painting themselves blue (yes, just like Braveheart again; never mind that Danes never did that).

  • Historically, John ordered forty pigs slaughtered and their fat rendered down to create a blaze in the undermine that collapsed one of the towers of the castle. But that would have been too dull, so the pigs are driven straight into the mine and burned alive. Never mind that that wouldn't work – it's badass, right?

The characters are so badly written that even good actors can only walk through their parts. The Magnificent Seven don't have personalities, just attributes: the Angry Sexy One, the Foul-Mouthed Brawler, the Unimpressive One with the Special Skill, the one who had retired to farm and look after his kids but comes back for One Last Mission… And all the stuff they are given to do is drawn from such hoary clichés as: - Both the director and James Purefoy (who plays the Templar) have explicitly called this a "medieval Magnificent Seven"; either not realising or not caring that in MS and SS there's a good reason why there are only seven assorted misfits holding off the powers of badness, but none whatever in Ironclad. It would pass in a sword-&-sorcery or wuxia flick, but not in what's supposed to be historical one.

  • Hero goes over the wall without a word to anyone, everyone thinks he's deserting but no, he has gone to steal supplies from the enemy? Tick.

  • Two of the Old Comrades meet, one promptly thumps the other, we're supposed to brace ourselves for a big brawl but no, they laugh and embrace each other? Tick.

  • The idealistic young lad is told "kill the women if the baddies get in" but can't bring himself to do it? Tick.

Yawn, yawn, yawn. You don't give a stuff about any of the characters, mainly because you don't for a moment believe in them. It's pure cartoon: but because the makers thought they were making a "gritty" "realistic" film, it's a dull sludge-coloured cartoon - the colour is so washed out it looks like a badly-degraded old print in need of restoration.

In addition to all this there are random packets of stupid:

  • John has a scenery-chewing rant about the Divine Right of Kings in which he claims that his ancestors have ruled England for 'thousands of years'. Shome mishtake there, shurely?

  • As soon as the siege starts, the lovely chatelaine puts on a very low-cut metal-studded leather corset, with bare arms, and spends the entire siege dressed like that. I think it was supposed to be armour, but it just looks like fetish wear. (All the costuming is pretty iffy, because the desire to make things look realistically squalid and medieval has clashed with the desire to scatter them with cool-looking bits of metalwork and stuff.)

The fictional characters' names are so inappropriate and un-medieval it's as though the production team picked them by opening the telephone directory at random, or raised money to make the film by auctioning off the right to name a character after your uncle: e.g. Marks, Phipps, Jedediah. And the blue-painted pagan Danish chief is called – wait for it – Tiberius. Why?

If English & Co had admitted to themselves that they weren't making a historical film but a hack 'n bash cartoon, they could have thrown in a few Orcs, a Chinese swordfight heroine or a Tim the Enchanter, and sent it up rotten. Then this film could have been tacky late-night fun. As it is – meh.
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Forgive the historical inaccuracies and it's an enjoyable film
MattyGibbs21 May 2013
I am not an expert on the period this film covers but reading reviews on here and then reading up on the period it is clear that it is not historically accurate. I can see why this would upset some people but for me watching a film is just pure entertainment not a history lesson so it is not something that concerns me too much. The fact that someone makes a film about a specific period in history may, as it did with me, make them get the facts for themselves.

As for the film itself it is nothing if not entertaining. The plot is made clear and therefore unlike some historical action films you actually get to know what's going on and why. In a nutshell a small band of knights have to defend a castle against hordes of King Johns men something along the lines of Zulu. There is a fair bit of tension and the fights are bloody and brutal.

The acting is nothing special though I thought Paul Giamatti was good as King John. The camera work is at times annoyingly shaky especially during the battle scenes but there is also some nice scenery in the few quieter spells.

Ironclad might fail historically but it does succeed in entertaining and that ultimately is what counts.
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Mediaeval Magnificent Seven with mud
Neil Welch6 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Seven assorted losers / misfits / warriors are brought together to defend a lost cause against overwhelming attacking forces. However, the setting here is Rochester Castle, and our defenders are opposing the forces of villainous King John, who is seeking to tear up Magna Carta.

Yes, it is essentially the Magnificent Seven again, but everything is cold and wet and miserable and grey and covered in mud.

Paul Giamatti is King John. He is an actor I usually like: here he is demonstrating the I Shout A Lot With An English Accent School of Acting.

Brian Cox is Quirky Baron With Anachronistic Turn Of Phrase Who Utters Pithy Defiance While Having Limbs Hacked Off.

Derek Jacobi plays Dignified Aged Castle Owner With Trophy Wife Who Resents Being Put In This Position Then Commits Suicide For No Apparent Reason.

James Purefoy is Miseryguts But Valiant Knight Templar Who Allows Himself To Be Seduced By Trophy Wife But Then The Film Doesn't Make Anything Of It.

Kate Mara plays Trophy Wife Who Remains Incredibly Clean While Everyone Else Is Covered In Filth. I keep waiting for Kate Mara to have a break out film - she is both talented and photogenic - but I don't think this will be it.

Mackenzie Crook plays Legolas Only Not So Clean Or Good Looking Or Immortal.

There are lots of fights. Lots of Blood. Much hacking and chopping and graphic violence. The battle scenes would have been well served with some action blur: unfortunately, like much digital action, what results is a kind of pixillated stop-motion rather than blur.

Don't expect the film to explain its title.

This film was OK, but no better.
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pretty good
cerabus-647-65887810 July 2011
I don't know what people are talking about here ...

This was a great movie, lots of action, and over the top blood and gore.

Sure, some of the acting was a bit off, and it was all mud and blood but that's what the mid-evil times was , mud and dirt and lots of crap.

The lead actor was excellent for being a lost soul and the wife of the keep keeper was beautiful and what you'd expect from being locked up alone with and old man.

Over all I really liked it. If you want a bit of fun and an easy to watch movie without over analyzing it too pieces then go for it.

You won't be sorry.
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Could have been a good flick...
Belfaborac11 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
It's quite sad really. This piece has some excellent actors and a promising premise (if, like me, you like movies based on this period and of a military persuasion), but unfortunately it is so wildly unrealistic that it becomes a pain to watch.

It starts off right at the beginning, with 3 Templars holding off a large war band of Danish mercenaries all by themselves while rescuing a priest. The priest, who've had the tip of his tongue cut off, then proceeds to rapidly die from that rather less than mortal injury.

While that's bad enough already, it goes on to a collection of 18-19 men-at-arms holding a castle against an army of a thousand men, when in reality such a scenario would have seen them overwhelmed and slaughtered within an hour.

Like I said, it's really quite sad. This period of English history was supremely turbulent and well suited as the setting of a movie such as this one. Unfortunately Hollywood's penchance for totally ignoring history and reality both means it instead ends up an exercise in superfluous stupidity. Something that also isn't helped at all by interjecting a totally pointless love story into the mix.

All in all a pretty hopeless piece of movie making, which you should only see if it comes your way for free.
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A Not-Very-Accurate Historical Actioner
Alison20 July 2011
Take a rather large bit of liberty with English medieval history, throw in some rather garbled declamations about the Magna Carta (yes, it led to more democracy, but no, it had nothing to do with liberating peasants, just giving the aristocracy more powers of their own versus the king's power) and take a huge bunch of medieval war-story battle clichés, and you have "Ironclad." You see, wicked King John (Paul Giamatti, not attempting an English accent), after having been forced to sign the document, then completely ignores its contents and instead goes after the noble signers and kills them one by one. Of course, to do this he must recruit a Danish army, which he does by promising the leader Tiberius (Vladimir Kulich, channelling the elder Malfoy) that the Pope will see to it that no Christians come in to take over the Danes' land and to convert them to Christianity. Against this vast horde are a motley group of seven (yes, this is based on "The Magnificent Seven," in part), led by Knight Templar Marshall (James Purefoy, so good in "Rome") and Baron Albany (Brian Cox, so good in, well, everything). In order to stop King John from continuing his tyrannous ways, they decide to take and hold the castle at Rochester, from whence the entire South of England can be held; to do so, they must take the current occupant, Lord Cornhill (the magnificent Derek Jacobi), and his young rebellious wife Isabel (Kate Mara) hostage. And in the process, young Guy (Aneurin Barnard, aka Frodo with a Sword), squire to Albany, must learn if he's a man or a boy. Can the Magnificent Seven – sorry, the Forces for Good – hold off an entire army laying siege to the castle for long enough (you see, the French are coming to their aid)? Can noble Marshall withstand the wicked wiles of the lovely woman, Isabel? Will Paul Giamatti get to have at least one pull-out-all-the-stops raving rant shouted at the top of his lungs? Well, what do you think? This is actually an extremely bloody movie for a mainstream film, lots of limbs shown being cut off and the like. But it's also quite a silly movie too, at least if you know any history. Suspension of disbelief is paramount in such action films, yet we constantly see Isabel and the other women of the castle wandering around freely, with their hair floating around the shoulders and bare arms and cleavage everywhere. In fact, Christian women (at least noble and/or respectable women) in 13th Century England wore wimples to cover their hair and were quite restricted in their movements, much like Muslim women in some countries today. And chopping off various limbs generally resulted in the victim bleeding out in minutes, not sort of lingering on for a few rousing statements to his mates. Still and all, this was a lot of fun if you don't mind cheering for either side as the mood strikes; seeing it with a FantAsia 2011 crowd was probably the best way to see it at all.
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Terrific Ced Yuen's review
wes-kahle27 June 2012
I'd never heard of this movie before I saw it in the Redbox. OMG...what a terrific cast!! Giammati, Purefoy, Cox, Flemyng, Dance, Mara....and Jacobi...I couldn't believe the folks that kept appearing in the movie...and they all have meaningful roles and solid scriptwriting. And I was beside myself when Vladimir Kulich showed up....he stole the damn movie in 13th Warrior...I wish they'd given him a larger role here; hell, I wish he'd get more roles (the man can act)! Paul Giamati gives an Oscar worthy rant about the birthright of kings towards the end of the movie that crystallizes just how far we've come from the assumption set of superstition that ruled human behavior for millenia...and is right beneath the surface waiting to come out. And everything Purefoy touches is lucky to have him....if you've never seen Rome, see it....he should have won an Emmy for Marc Antony....honorable, lost, brilliant, greedy and decadent all wrapped into one. The story is pretty darn good too....the writer's tried to keep this in the zone historically and did a more than fair job. The violence is the most realistic I've seen (not for the under 12 crowd...even folks under 21 may get squeamish)....but if you want to see 13th century etiquette up close and personal...then step right up! Just an incredibly pleasant surprise. Definitely one for the video library.
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Quality medieval movie
Wuchak30 January 2015
Released in 2011, "Ironclad" is based on the real-life siege of Rochester Castle by the pompous and loathsome King John (Paul Giamatti) in 1215. In real life the castle was protected by 95 to 140 knights supported by crossbowmen, sergeants, and others, but in the film there are less than 20 fighting men. I suppose this keeps the social interplay in the fortress less complicated. The main protagonist is a solemn Templar, Thomas Marshal (James Purefoy), loosely based on medieval knight/statesman William Marshal. The others include the historical leader of the defense, Baron William d'Aubigny (Brian Cox), a squire (Aneurin Barnard), and various characters played by Jason Flemyng, Jamie Foreman, Rhys Parry Jones, amongst others.

I won't tell you what happens in the film, but in real life King John takes the castle and the nobles were either imprisoned or exiled. Also, the foreign mercenaries John enlists were mostly Flemish, Provençals and Aquitainians, not Danes, and the French didn't arrive until six months after John took the castle. Speaking of the Danes, they're depicted as decidedly pagan when Denmark was already thoroughly Christianized by that point. Lastly, William d'Aubigny was not an ennobled wool merchant and what happens to him at the end of the siege is fictional.

If you can handle historical deviations like these "Ironclad" is a very worthwhile medieval film. The action is realistic and brutal and the main characters are decent to strong. The score and cinematography are top-rate. On the womanly front, Kate Mara plays the platonic wife of Baron Reginald de Cornhill (Derek Jacobi), who becomes infatuated during the siege by the mysterious Templar. Will Marshal give-in to her feminine charms or won't he? Also on hand is Bree Condon as the utterly stunning full-maned brunette Agnes. Unfortunately, not enough is done with the women.

Although not as good as "King Arthur," "Tristan + Isolde" and "Black Death," my three favorite medieval movies, "Ironclad" plays better IMHO than (the overrated) "Braveheart." I'd put it on par with 2010's "Robin Hood," "Rob Roy" and "First Knight."

The film runs 121 minutes and was shot entirely on location in Wales, UK.

GRADE: Borderline B or B+
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Gripping movie about a seldom dramatized period in history
phd_travel24 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Quite an absorbing historical action movie. There aren't that many movies about this period in British history. So many more about the Tudor period. This deals with evil King John, the Knights Templar and the Magna Carta.

The siege of Rochester castle is quite gripping and realistic in an intimate "Last of the Mohicans" way. No over use of CGI as in Troy. It's more scary that way.

The acting is competent throughout. James Purefoy is convincing as the Knight Templar. Kate Mara is plain enough to be suitable too although her forward behavior is a bit wanton even for a wanton wench. Can't imagine they were considering Megan Fox who would have been too beautiful for this role. Strange choice of Paul Giamatti to play an English king though.

There is some unnecessary torture (which I found out never happened in real life!). But things are saved with a kind of feel good ending.

Overall worth watching.
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Realistic medieval mini-epic should boost Rochester tourism.
max-vernon6 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
For anyone with an interest in history, this is a film well worth watching. Anachronisms slip in - John 'signing' Magna Carta; the Great Charter itself symbolising a kind of protean democracy; what appears to be a Jacobean table adorning John's tent – to name a few. Yet the film is true to the period and events it portrays and is worthier than most medieval epics in recreating the atmosphere of the time. It outshines Ridley Scott's 'Robin Hood' and bears comparison with 'Kingdom of Heaven'. Most viewers will find it less entertaining than either, if only because the scale is much smaller. The writers have made an effort to do justice to the events and characters portrayed.

The film is very instructive in recreating this short siege of Rochester Castle by King John in late 1215. Autumnal mists, watery Medway landscape, mud balanced with medieval technical ingenuity. The whole business of siege is handled very effectively - water and food supply, siege engines, retreat to the keep as the outer bailey is taken, undermining by fire. The battle scenes leave little to the imagination as steel slices through flesh and bone. Probably the bloodiest and rawest depiction of medieval warfare I have seen on film. The script is pretty faithful to the written records which survive.

The depiction of John is the best I have seen on film – probably his first film appearance as a mature king not in the context of Robin Hood. Paul Giamatti is given a good script and carries off the role with panache. It was good to hear him at the end of the film justifying his cruelty with an impassioned speech about anointed kings and his absolute right to expect loyalty from his subjects. A nice little story about his father punishing a servant for a crime John had committed.

As a child, John had seen his mother and 3 older brothers conspire to overthrow his father, resulting in the long imprisonment of his mother. Against all the odds John had outlived his brothers to become king. Possessing ability and cunning, surviving quarrels with both barons and Church; all this gives John a hinterland deserving a script as good as this. 'Bad', impolitic, lecherous, loser against Phillip 'Augustus' of France he may have been, but John was not the one-dimensional villain the Robin Hood stories have bequeathed us, no mere spawn of the 'Devil's Brood'. Unfortunately, the film does add to the 'Bad' King John myth with a blatant untruth. D'Aubigny (Brian Cox) survived the siege to become a loyal servant of John's infant son, Henry III.

It is amusing to see John instructing his chroniclers to omit details of siege events when they are going against him. Amusing because historians have expended much ink debating whether or not John's priestly chroniclers were biased and did him an historical injustice.

Going any deeper into the politics of the period would have presented problems. Stephen Langton, both Archbishop of Canterbury and Arch-inspirer of the Charter, is portrayed sympathetically as John's nemesis. The Pope's recent support for John and the stronger hand this gives him against the rebels is explained. Charles Dance, Brian Cox, and Derek Jacobi all bring convincing gravitas to their well-written roles.

It is difficult to put words into the mouth of an historical John (as opposed to a mythic 'Robin Hood' John) which are both accurate and understandable to a modern audience. We like democracy and hate absolute rulers. John was a feudal overlord rather than an absolute ruler and his relationship to his barons was as much personal as God-given. This long-dead medieval mind-set is hard to grasp and has nothing to do with modern notions of democracy. Magna Carta is rightly seen as a stepping-stone on that long path, but the events we see here were essentially quarrels among the feudal elite and about Church/State boundaries. Quarrelling was endemic to feudalism and any king needed to be 'robust'. Any further descent into historical explanation would undermine the drama. Some viewers may think it already does. As a balance, the minor characters are entertaining and provide some comic relief.

The fictitious romance between the warrior-monk James Purefoy and the lady of the castle will be a plus for some and a minus for others, according to taste. For me it spoiled the film's ending (aimed at the American market perhaps?). A case can be made for it as a device to relieve the dramatic tension of bloody siege and impending doom.

James Purefoy's Knight Templar is an interesting extenuation of the Orlando Bloom character in 'Kingdom of Heaven' and Russell Crow's Robin Hood. Sickened by crusading slaughter in the name of God, all three characters feed into our contemporary existential angst about confrontation with Jihadism.

Pity about the film's title which conjures up images of battleships rather than knights.
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Visceral actioner based on historical siege
maatmouse-14 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Ironclad is the story of the Rochester Castle siege, set during medieval times as King John is forced to sign the Magna Carta by the barons. Angered at having to do it, he decides to take out his frustration on England and also wants to take Rochester Castle, a strategically strong point in England, in case of possible invasion from France.

Preventing King John from doing that is the team of Brian Cox, James Purefoy, Jason Flemyng, Jamie Foreman, Aneurin Banard, Mackenzie Crook and castle owner Derek Jacobi and Kate Mara. It is James' character of Marshall that receives a huge amount of attention as he struggles with his blood lust against John countered with his vows and his conscience dealing with Kate Mara's somewhat bold aristocrat.

What makes the film is its action and what action it is! Bold, visceral, with the viewer very much in the middle feeling what the actors are feeling. At times, it can be sometimes very intense although a criticism I have is this tendency towards steady cam and giving the camera movement. It is all well and good but if the camera was moved a bit wider to accommodate the action more, it would have been a better film. That said, perfecting steady cam and utilising hand held cameras is quite an art and mastering it takes time and experienced camera men.

Yet these steady cam issues are minor niggles. What emerged from those months in Wales for Jonathan English and his superb cast is a brilliant film, nicely rendered and balanced with some good, real balls to the walls action interplayed with a good mix of romance and scene setting. It was also nice to see some of my buddies in the film, doing their thing. Hopefully more work coming their way after this.

Go along and watch it. You won't be disappointed.
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Shaky-Cam, Shaky-Film
Leafan16 March 2011
This could have been a great film. It has the epic historic story, the great cast and a rising star in James Purefoy... but it's all let down by that stupid 'technique' of the shaky-camera.

Yes this film has loads of bloodshed and violence, as it should be, but good luck in actually seeing most of it! I question why anyone would make a film with some horrifically violent scenes and then use shaky-cam for the rest? It's clearly not for what? It's LAZY film making ladies & gents.

If you get sea-sick you'd best stay clear. As for this piece of uninspired crap.... I hope it drowns.
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another so called historical movie
vasile palade12 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Well..let me be straightforward and tell it from the beginning: i like this movie. Maybe because Scott's Robin Hood was disappointing. Maybe because the team behind was bold enough to try making an indie movie able to play in the big league. Maybe because they had the good idea to bring several actors from the British School (both theater and movie). Maybe because they had the good idea to end the old tradition and depict war as gruesome as it is. No guts no glory.

Several damaging issues might count for the missing 3 stars in my vote (7/10) - the shaky camera - too simple screenplay - the crumbling castle (really people...was not there any better idea to "allow" the danish mercs entering the castle than a herd of pigs put on fire? ) - Speaking about the Danish Mercs. Why were they speaking modern Magyar? Was this movie supposed to be played only in US ? If an medieval Norse speaking consultant might be hard to be found i would expect finding few modern Danish speakers to make the voice overs. Should't be that expensive. By the way, the Magyar language is related somehow with the Finish language but no way with any Scandinavian languages (Norse, Swedish, Danish)
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A gloriously violent medieval action movie
brchthethird14 November 2014
While not very deep, and light on character development, IRONCLAD is a well-made medieval action movie which is like BRAVEHEART crossed with THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. The story is about the siege of Rochester Castle during the final years of King John of England's reign. A group of seven men, led by a Knight Templar (James Purefoy) go to Rochester Castle to defend it against King John who his hellbent on retaking lands that he lost after signing the Magna Carta. The reason for it being Rochester Castle is because it was strategically important for the monarchy. During the first part of the movie, the team is assembled and the premise is set up rather well with an expository introduction (there is some voice-over sprinkled throughout the film). The latter part of the movie is the siege, and this is definitely the strongest part of the movie. The battle scenes are brutally violent and bloody, as limbs and heads are hacked and slashed in a variety of ways. What's even better is that most of it was accomplished using good-ole prosthetics, as opposed to CGI. However, up to this point, we don't really know much about the characters outside of Purefoy's Thomas Marshal. During a lull in between battle sequences is when the movie starts to pay attention to the characters. Even Paul Giamatti's villainous King John is given time to shine, which makes the film more balanced. Other than Giamatti, the best performance is given by James Purefoy, who is given the best treatment in the screenplay as a conflicted Knight Templar. As a man who has seen lots of bloodshed in his time as a knight, he begins to have second thoughts about his calling and, in the process, finds love with one of the women at the castle. Normally, when you talk about romantic subplots in movies, particularly action movies, they often feel tacked on or superfluous. Not so here, as the romance is in service of the characters and isn't overplayed. Other standout elements would be the cinematography, and the way the battle sequences were shot. They really put you into the thick of battle and give a good sense of what it might have been like to fend off an enemy in a confined space. The effects work during these sequences was also outstanding. The score was also well-done, and stirring when it needed to be. Overall, this movie is pretty good and definitely worth seeing. There are some philosophical questions pondered late into it, and while nothing really deep is said, it does add a little depth to what could have been just an ordinary medieval kill-fest. Recommended, especially to people who enjoy period war movies.
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It's hard to praise this without it sounding like a backhanded compliment
MBunge2 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
An awful title and even worse marketing probably prevented Ironclad from ever having a chance at the box office. I'm not sure if it's done any better in the video market but this thing is not at all bad. It's sort of like Braveheart's less attractive, less intelligent cousin. If Mel Gibson's classic is Marilyn Monroe, this film is Jenny McCarthy or Shannon Tweed. Sure, in a perfect world you'd rather have Marilyn but who's going to turn their nose up at those alternatives if you're in the mood for a blonde beauty? There are brutal combat and fine performances here, though on a much smaller scale, and the fiction is close enough to what actually happened to validate its existence. There's a little too much make believe competing with real history, however, and it divides a narrative that needed to be unified.

When England's King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215 by his rebellious aristocracy and officially establish the idea that there were limits to king's power, that may have been the birthing place of liberty and democracy in the West. Yet, King John was a hateful, miserable father and sought to strangle such new life in the crib before it could grow. Magna Carta was not the end of the conflict, as the English of the day and most history-deficient Americans today likely thought. After the signing, his enemies relented and John was able to reorder his forces and launch a new campaign to restore his divine right to rule. Ironclad plays fast and loose with the details of all that, having King John (Paul Giamatti) recruit an army of Danish mercenaries with a promise the Catholic Church will leave their homeland alone and Baron Albany (Brian Cox) gather a medieval Magnificent 6 to thwart John's plans by defending a vital castle until French allies arrive to depose the revengeful monarch.

Now, there was a castle siege and the French did get involved, but that's about all this motion picture gets right. It's close enough, though, for cinema. But unlike Braveheart, which stuck to the basic story of William Wallace and fictionalized to make it work as a movie, Ironclad devotes equal time to an entirely made up subplot involving a Templar Knight named Marshal (James Purefoy) and his forbidden love for another baron's young wife (Kate Mara). Braveheart reimagined Wallace as an action hero. This film simply makes one up, gives him his own personal story and then inserts him into this page out of English history. King John being real and Marshal not prevents anything from working quite as well as it should.

Let me give you an example. The whole deal with Marshal and the baron's wife is about how a Templar's vows forbid him from consorting with women. Yet, Marshal stands in rebellion against his rightful liege and in defiance of his Pope, violating the established order of his world. Why would someone like that blanch at breaking yet one more taboo? These filmmakers are trying to enact two diametrically opposed conflicts with the same character and then never connect or fuse them together. The stuff with Marshal's love life has nothing to do with the struggle against King John and a character built to carry one is ill suited to sustain the other.

It's as if they weren't confident or didn't know how to make the history into an entertaining motion picture, so they just came up with some stuff up to fill out the script instead of finding more in the truth that they could embellish. Imagine if Brian Cox had been William Wallace, Mel Gibson a fabricated lieutenant and Braveheart had been evenly split between the two. That is Ironclad.

Of course, being not as good as Braveheart is nothing to be ashamed of. The twin tales of this movie are both fairly well told and there's plenty of gore and bodies hacked apart. Albany's band of rebels is entertaining, Kate Mara is pretty sexy and Giamatti amps up the volume to crystallize the reality of monarchical entitlement and the sovereign as the center of social order. This may be as powerful a portrayal of how kings thought and felt as Robert Shaw as Henry VIII from A Man for All Seasons. Purefoy also smolders manfully and swings a mean sword.

I liked Ironclad. Not enough to overlook its flaws, but enough to forgive them. More people should watch this film.
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SPOILERS! What is wrong with people?
helturflippad12 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Despite containing several competent actors (Like Brian Cox, Jason Flemyng, Paul Giamatti, Charles Dance, Bree Condon) this movie is still an epic fail. Storywise it is "let's hold some boring castle despite being ridiciously undermanned". Besides this you basically have monotone pc made blood squirts that you not see much of as... The photography is apparently shot by an visually impaired epileptic Parkinson's intern stumbling down a never ending staircase. It is so bad that even if you pause screen you won't make out much more than it has computer made blood f/x they try to shake.

Even though the assemble attempts to deliver they never get a break as nothing particularly interesting seems to have been written in the screenplay. Also I have the feeling that Ironsleep was miscast despite qualified actors. I really like Giamatti but despite being one of the more interesting characters he in paradox seems misplaced, further they have a beautiful girl that not puts you to sleep (Bree Condom) that is of more interest than the not so interesting lead lady.

Surroundings are also noteworthy, the sterile computer rendered "castle"?!? is without comparison the most boring castle setting I have ever seen on the big screen. It clearly is an unfinished canvas as they did not even bother put in a single interesting detail in there. (Seems people lives there by gnawing on the poorly rendered stone-walls as there is virtually nothing, and I mean NOTHING, else present except some mud.

Speaking of minimalism, what is up with the defenders running miles with some small coffecups?!? of hot oil and flickin it over the walls on the aggressors. Is this some early attempt of oil-massaging hair-bottoms?!? Why do they boil oil as far as human possibly away from where they need to use it quickly? These silly details are unfortunately integrated thoroughly throughout the entire sleeping pill.

If you get the green lights to make a movie, and you get competent actors and sufficient funds. Why not get a GOOD script, a photographer above age 3 and an editor that does not edit 5000 cuts/sec?!?

The most depressing part is that we have all seen 500 worse post-lotr medieval attempts.

My recommendation is press stop, eject and fast forward to the battle at helms deep. Or if you're in to siege's, insert The Warlord, Flesh + Blood, Feast, Zulu, Demon Knight, Night Of The Living Dead, Assault on precinct 13, Birds or whatever sieges you on mates...

Hope this saves you from insomnia and acute indifference mates
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