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Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Balian (Orlando Bloom), a young French blacksmith, is mourning the loss of his wife and young son. The religious wars raging in the far off Holy Land seem remote to him, yet he is pulled into that very intense 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 overwhelming odds.

Destiny comes seeking Balian in the form of a great knight, Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson), a Crusader briefly home to France from fighting in the East. Revealing himself as Balian’s father, Godfrey shows him the meaning of knighthood and takes him on a journey across continents to the Holy City.

In Jerusalem — between the Second and Third Crusades — a fragile peace prevails, through the efforts of its enlightened Christian king, Baldwin IV, aided by his adviser Tiberias (Jeremy Irons), and the military restraint of the legendary Muslim leader Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). But Baldwin’s days are numbered, and strains of fanaticism, greed, and jealousy among the Crusaders threaten to destroy the truce.

King Baldwin’s vision of peace — a “kingdom of heaven” — is shared by a handful of knights, including Godfrey of Ibelin, who swear to uphold it with their lives and honor. As Godfrey passes his sword to his son, he also passes on that sacred oath: to protect the helpless, safeguard the peace, and work toward harmony between religions and cultures, so that a kingdom of heaven can flourish on earth.

Balian takes the sword and steps into history.

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Details:

Rating:  R (for strong violence and epic warfare)

Genre: Action & Adventure , Classics , Drama

Director: Ridley Scott

In Theaters: May 6, 2005

Runtime: 145 minutes

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Review:

Kingdom of Heaven in 2005 is what Gladiator was in 2000. Ridley Scott has delivered a worthy follow up to his Oscar winner, which is based on medieval times, with a central heroic character, and supporting casts of characters based on real history.

The sets are spectacular. The costumes are beautiful, from intricately remade Knights armor, to the desert garb of the Muslim warriors. The soundtrack is a mixture of sounds with middle eastern influences. Much is said about how the film portrays religion, given the sensitive subject of the Crusades, but I feel that Scott has achieved a wonderful balance between how Christianity and Islam are portrayed. Both are given fair airtime on their ideologies, and the film tries to preach (pardon the pun) tolerance, yet highlights the dangers of fanatical followers of both religions, of misguidance from men in search of worldly power.

Orlando Bloom plays Balian, a blacksmith who became a fugitive, but inherited land and army from his father, Godfrey, played by Liam Neeson. Neeson is incredible as usual in his limited but powerful role. The film can be broadly categorized into 3 acts – the first in which Balian searches for his identity and new life in Jerusalem, the second in which the focus is on religion and politics of the time, and the last, the spectacular siege and war.

Bloom puts up a commendable performance, so to his detractors out there, you’re in for a big surprise. Edward Norton had the difficult task of acting through a mask as leper King Baldwin.Fans of Eva Green might be disappointed that the relationship between Balian and Queen Sibylla was played down to focus on the battles, but I feel it’s a fair trade off.

The pan-out and general landscape sweeps are mind blowing, and will leave you wanting more. Think about the battles that you see in Lord of The Rings Two Towers and Return of the King – the siege on Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith – Kingdom of Heaven delivers the equivalent, probably even better (without the fantasy elements). This is one medieval war movie whose battles will stick in your mind for some time.

Saladin is asked, “What is Jerusalem worth?.” His answer, “Nothing, everything.” Watch this, and in my opinion, one of the only movies that captures the Crusades in such a compelling way.

Trailer:

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Rick Mac
Student and author of History. The study of History is the beginning of wisdom.

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