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Kingdom of Heaven
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10 from R votes
Release: 06 May 2005 /

Kingdom of Heaven

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Director: Ridley Scott,
Stars: , , ,
Synopsis: Balian of Ibelin travels to Jerusalem during the crusades of the 12th century, and there he finds himself as the defender of the city and its people.

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Critic Reviews


In 1935, Cecil B. DeMille made his famous epic "The Crusades" on one of the back lots of Hollywood. What a change in the Ridley Scott film "Kingdom of Heaven" of 2005 with the technical wizardry of a new era! Although it is not a perfect film, it is nonetheless skillfully crafted and well worth the time of any film-goer in our current, troubled age.

From the visual and technical standpoint, "Kingdom of Heaven" is masterful. The recreation of medieval France and the city of Jerusalem were tremendous technical achievements. The French landscape recalls the region around medieval Clermont and Vézelay where Pope Urban and Bernard of Clairvaux delivered their momentous calls to arms for the first two Crusades. And in the recreation of Jerusalem, the film artists truly drew us into the twelfth-century walled city with sacred roots in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Much credit should go to cinematographer John Mathieson, costume designer Janty Yates, and all of the film's art directors. The film's events spanned the era between the Second and Third Crusades, and the evocation of this epoch was simply spectacular.

In the genre of the epic film, the leading actor is crucial, as in the unforgettable performances of "Lawrence of Arabia" (Peter O'Toole), "Tess" (Nastassja Kinski), and "Bridge on the River Kwai" (Alec Guiness). One weakness of "Kingdom of Heaven" is leading performer Orlando Bloom. Although this young actor has fine screen presence, his performance was subdued and monochromatic. The Crusaders were driven by zeal, and Bloom's character Balian seems mired in melancholia following the death of his infant child and the subsequent suicide of his wife. Bloom's character does not even evolve much even after arriving in Jerusalem, he falls in love with the mysterious Sibylla. Neither courtly love nor the fires of faith could ignite much passion in Bloom. As Sibylla, Eva Green also seemed out of place in this film. A close historical prototype for her character was the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine, who accompanied her husband King Louis on the Second Crusade, during which Eleanor allegedly had a torrid love affair with her uncle Raymond of Antioch. But Eva Green's character seemed closer to a young woman from the twenty-first century, as opposed to the twelfth.

Other performances were stronger, including those of Liam Neeson as Balian's father, Jeremy Irons as Tiberias, and Edward Norton as the King. Those actors really resembled medieval knights. Norton's characterization of a king struggling with leprosy and forced to wear a mask was one of the most sensitive character portraits since Ralph Fiennes' role as "The English Patient." Norton's characterization offers a glimpse into the softer side of the great medieval knights, such as the legendary Richard the Lionheart, a poet and troubadour, as well as a king. Ghassan Massoud also merits praise for his portrayal of Saladin as not only a brilliant general, but a figure of great dignity.

One of the themes of the excellent screenplay was that of honor. The actions of the main character of Balian were guided by honor. And the character of Saladin was portrayed as an individual of great moral rectitude. The Western cultural heritage of chivalry, courtly love, and honor filtered into Europe through Islamic traditions, which "Kingdom of Heaven" clearly acknowledges. There is a powerful sequence in the film where Saladin discovers a small Christian cross that has toppled over. He takes the time to pick up the fallen cross and set it aright. In a film filled with special effects and spectacular scenes of siege warfare, that moment of simplicity stands out as a brilliant cinematic moment.

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