Thursday, 10 March 2011



I'm not massively knowledgeable about history. I could probably put the King Henrys in date order (presumably starting with Henry I) but couldn't thread them in with the Edwards and Williams and Jasons. This probably goes back to learning history at school and spending about three years having every last clause of the Corn Laws mumbled at us. Who was king in 1477? Who were we at war with in 1760? I couldn't tell you without Googling it. But I don't mind the occasional film with a historical setting - for one thing, I probably absorb a few facts and some of them might even be true, and for another it makes a change from gore and monsters and chainsaws and the usual stuff I tend to watch.

Although, it has to be said, Ironclad does have more than its fair share of blood, gore, dismemberment and violent slaughter as it relates the story of the siege of Rochester Castle (part of the First Barons' War) in 1216, when King John (with the Pope's blessing) ignores the freshly signed Magna Carta and a group of rebels and a Templar Knight have to take and hold the never-breached Rochester Castle. With the king's forces camped outside, and no sign of reinforcements and relief as promised by the King of France (yes, this is a war movie where you're wanting the French to turn up), the rebels are first being starved out, and then being burned out as the king's forces dug a chamber under the castle and filled it with imflammable pigs.

However faithful or unfaithful to historical record the film might be, it's an entertaining romp with a splendid cast including Brian Cox as the rebel leader, Paul Giamatti as the king (with some entertainingly hammy ranting), Derek Jacobi as the bloke who actually lives at Rochester Castle, Charles Dance as the Archbishop....Sadly all the action sequences are again shot in that fast-shutter style which they've taken from the opening reel of Saving Private Ryan and produces a series of incredibly clear still images but no motion blur between them - and again it looks horrible and unnatural. And while there's a frankly insane amount of violence on display, too much of the blood spurting is CG which also doesn't look right. It's not a great film, but it is rather fun.


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