Irreverent - that's one of the first things that pops into your mind, as you watch this "saga" of adventure in medieval times.
The whole movie is occupied with only one thing - jousting. Wherein men of noble birth attempt to bash each other off their horses, using a blunted piece of wood twenty feet long. The movie takes off on a most surreal note, with a joust tournament rocking to what has to be the most unique application of Queen's anthem "We Will Rock You". William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) is apprenticed to Sir Hector, a knight who dies just when he's about to win a tournament and more importantly, money. So, William takes his place, wins the tournament and gets the money. That's it, right? Nope.
William develops a taste for jousting and convinces his fellow apprentices - the dependable Roland and the hot-tempered Wat - to train him. And after the usual foibles and fumbles, they're off to a tournament. Which is where Irreverency II comes in - in the form of a naked and destitute Geoffrey Chaucer. The famed bard gets them into the tournament and gets some clothes on himself. Here, William (now Count Ulrich von Lichtenstein) meets Jocelyn, whose actual title and position remain undefined throughout the movie, but who appears to be a Lady. Unfortunately for William, the champion knight Count Adhemar defeats him and snubs him in the process.
So, the fate of the rest of the movie is predicted. William keeps going to jousts and winning them, all the time seeking revenge on Adhemar, who's fighting in a war. Jocelyn keeps flirting with William. Chaucer hones his skill as an announcer and keeps getting beaten up by Wat; and somewhere along the line, they pick up a smith who makes some amzing armour for William. The finale is set at the World Championships, held in London, where William finally meets up with Adhemar again. In between, Prince Edward is also introduced to us and the romance between William and Jocelyn comes to fruition.
The movie is not an epic and, thankfully, never claims to be one. Instead, it has a very light-hearted approach, which is most visible in the fact that none of the joust scenes are gruesome at all. The most unique part of the film is its take on history, right from that opening scene to Chaucer's role. There are lots of oblique references to the music and films of today, which are easily incorporated into the dialogue. The pace is well-set, laid-back and casual for most of the time, but gearing up well during the jousts. Though the final outcome is predictable and a trifle overdone, it builds up decently. Brian Helgeland, who earlier directed "Payback", does a good job in tempering the film with action and humour.
The acting is good. Ledger hasn't got much to do, but he portrays the naive and determined William well. His sense of timing is excellent, especially in the humourous bits. The scenes between Wat and Roland are good entertainment, while the romance scenes are at times a little cloying with their archiac speech. Everybody does a good job of portraying their characters, given the fact that most of the movie is concerned with charging horses and flying bits of wood.
The movie is good fun and quite a decent watch, as long as you're not expecting a "Braveheart".This article was first published on 01 Nov 2001.