A Knight’s Tale

UK release date: 31 August 2001

cast list
Heath Ledger
Rufus Sewell
Mark Addy
Laura Fraser
Paul Bettany

directed by
Brian Helgeland

The man done good. Brian Helgeland, the screenwriter for such classics of the Blockbusters Bargain Bin as the Mel Gibson-starring Conspiracy Theory and Payback, has written, produced, and directed his first film. And it doesn’t have big bad Mel in it!

Perhaps very slightly based on Chaucer’s A Knight’s Tale from his bestselling children’s compendium The Canterbury Tales (I maintain that children would be far more attentive in history lessons if the book were used), this comedy tells the story of a peasant squire’s dreams to become a knight.

Following the untimely death of his boss, the squire, convincingly played by Heath Ledger, takes his place in the jousting ring and wins the tournament. But oh, don’t you know- one must be of noble birth to participate. Ledger has dreams of winning the world championships in London, and their ancestral problem is solved by the appearance of a butt-naked Geoffrey Chaucer, who agrees to provide royal patents in exchange for food and water.

Yes, I said naked.

Although this may sound slightly out of place, I should say that this is no historical saga. From the moment you see the jousting fans dancing and screaming to Queen‘s We Will Rock You, you know this ain’t no serious Hollywood adventure. This is comedy- pure comedy- mixing Monty Python antics and humour with almost faultless and wholly believable acting from especially Paul Bettany’s Chaucer, but also the majority of the cast. The film also manages to retain an air of intelligence, due largely to the fantastic script, and the fact that no jokes are used too often or repeated too much.

The only let down is the fantastic Rufus Sewell’s bad guy. Contradiction? Yes, probably, but Sewell is just too serious for the role.

The music mixes Jerry Goldsmith-style orchestral writing with Robbie Williams, and all the better for it. The jousting scenes are well-made, and even slightly gripping. You’ll walk out with a smile on your face, and a spring in your gallop. Great stuff.

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