A Knight’s Tale

| May 8, 2001

Last weekend, I endured a two hour and nine minute action movie and got kind of bored. I also saw A Knight’s Tale. A two hour action adventure love story that lives up to the tag line… He Will Rock You.
A Knight’s Tale is the story of a 14th-Century Thatcher’s son who “changes his stars,” and becomes a knight, competing for World Championships of Jousting (this is somewhat akin to the NCAA BCS championships of college football but with a much easier point system). And as any good and noble knight would do, he also competes for the hand of the lady he loves.
Heath Ledger (The Patriot, 10 Things I Hate About You) plays William Thatcher the squire to an over-the-hill knight who dies during halftime of a jousting tournament. Ledger dons his former bosses armor and wins the last joust of an easy tournament, but has the seed planted for greater things for himself and his fellow squires. Taking on the fake name of Sir Ulrich of Guilderland, he begins to train to take on the big guys.
In the process he meets and falls instantly in love with Lady Jocelyn, a lady of some high nobility because she seems to get some of the best seats in the house for every tournament. Or she has a great ticket agent, the movie is never quite clear. Jocelyn is played by Shannyn Sossamon in her first movie role. I read that she was discovered while DJ’ing a party for Gwyneth Paltrow.
That’s all the story you’re going to get. I will tell you that like the popular movie of last week, The Mummy Returns, there is a lot of action, except that in A Knight’s Tale, there is a story. Several, in fact. And they all work together. This movie is a great popcorn and Coke movie. It will make you smile.
One of the things that makes this movie so cool is the sound track. Along with the expected period music, is a sound track that rocks. Literally. There is enough rock music from the 70’s and 80’s to start a Classic Radio play list. It begins with Queen’s We Will Rock You that sets the tone for what you are about to see in the rest of the film. There are also tunes from Thin Lizzy, Bachman Turner Overdrive, AC/DC, and in what has to be a the best uses for one of his songs, David Bowie’s “Golden Years,” with a killer new opening. Knowing that they were going to use rock’n’roll in a medieval setting was one of the appeals of this movie, and it did not disappoint. In fact, it is this blend that makes this movie so fresh. Says Producer Todd Black, “We thought, ‘This is either going to work really well or really horribly.’ But I’m tired of safe movies … this goes for it. It’s not safe. I hate safe.”
The costuming was quite typical of period pieces except for the way that Sossamon is dressed. Her outfits could be found in movies depicting many decades of the 20th Century but they are not so over the top as to stick out poorly here. She was made to be the beauty focal point of the movie and like everything else in the movie, it worked.
Sir Ulrich/William’s supporting crew of squires was excellent. Paul Bettany plays the writer Geoffrey Chaucer and delivers one of the best lines to a pair of scoundrels to the effect that he will curse them for eternity by writing about them. Every knight needs a herald, and it appears that Chaucer makes a damn fine one. Mark Addy (The Full Monty) plays Roland, his head squire, while Alan Tudyk (remember the dweeb in 28 Days!!!) plays Wat, the irrepressible defender of his knight. I had just re-seen 28 Days and could not believe it was the same actor! Picked up along the way is Laura Fraser, a female blacksmith who develops a new type of armor for William. That’s kind of like inventing a pair of high-tops which will make you run faster and jump higher (If you want to see her shine some more, rent Virtual Sexuality from 1999). The one negative point of the movie is that they have this crew of 4 run the first few steps with William every time he begins a joust. It got distracting.
There has to be a bad guy and in Knight’s, this is Count Ademar of France. Rufus Sewell (the bad guy in Bless The Child) plays it a little over the top, but luckily we all know what happens to bad guys in Westerns and period pieces.
If you went to see The Mummy Returns and liked it, go see A Knight’s Tale. You will like it as well. If you didn’t like The Mummy Returns, then A Knight’s Tale is a great reason to go back to the movie theaters. Written and directed by Brian Helgeland (who already has one Oscar for LA Confidential), A Knight’s Tale is, for me, the first real summer movie of the 14th or 21st Century.

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