Crusade era comes to life in ‘Kingdom of Heaven’

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Director Ridley Scott is known for his big-budget movies, such as “Gladiator” and “Black Hawk Down.” His new film, “Kingdom of Heaven” is no exception.

This time around, Scott brings the 12th Century Crusades between the Muslims and the Christians, to the big screen. It is an epic story about honor, courage, and of course, war and peace.

“Kingdom” revolves around Balian, played by Orlando Bloom, an ordinary blacksmith, who is mourning the death of his wife (by suicide) and child. Because of this incident, Balian feels he is loosing his faith, until he is confronted by a mysterious man who reveals himself to be Balian’s father. This man is Godfrey of Ibelin, (the impeccable Liam Neeson) a brave knight, who offers Balian the chance to join him and his fellow knights on their voyage to the Holy City of Jerusalem. With some reluctance, Balian agrees to go, in order to cleanse the sins of his wife, as well as his own.

On their way out of France, Godfrey and his knights are attacked by a group of men looking for Balian, who is accused of murder. During the clash, Godfrey is mortally wounded. Before he dies, Godfrey tells his son about the Kingdom of Heaven that awaits him in Jerusalem. There, he must protect King Baldwin’s vision of peace with his life and honor. Godfrey knights Balian, and Balian joins the crusade.

Upon reaching Jerusalem, Balian is immediately sought after by the dying King Baldwin, via his beautiful sister, Sibylla (the enchanting Eva Green). Balian is informed that the King’s peace agreement with the Muslim leader Saladin, (Syrian actor/director, Ghassan Massoud) is in danger, since extremist on both sides are looking for a fight.

Although it is Balian’s job to preserve Jerusalem’s peace, war is inevitable.

Enter then, the huge, bloody and extremely gory battle scenes that Ridley Scott is famous for. “Kingdom” has a few that are well worth sitting through (with or without cringing).

“Kingdom” has a very strong supporting cast of prominent actors. Although film critics are skeptical about Orlando Bloom’s ability to carry a leading roll, he is convincing as a lost soul trying to find his way in life and faith.

French born Eva Green has an impressive aura to her, considering she is the only female in a cast full of rugged men.

Marton Csokas (“The Bourne Supremacy”) is Sibylla’s chauvinistic husband and potential heir to the throne.

Although you only hear his voice, since his face is concealed throughout the film, Edward Norton is the leprous, yet potent King Baldwin. The always elegant, Jeremy Irons is The King’s advisor and friend, Tiberias. Although his screen time is feeble, the great David Thewlis,(Seven Years in Tibet) is Hospitaler, Godfrey’s spiritual advisor and military aide.

With the help of a formidable crew, Scott brought every single detail of “Kingdom” to life. To recreate 12th century France, production designer, Arthur Max (who worked with Scott on both “Black Hawk Down” and “Gladiator”) chose Spain to film in. Morocco and some interiors of Spain were used in filming the scenes of the ancient city of Jerusalem.

Costume designer, Janty Yates (who also worked with Scott on “Gladiator”) displayed wonderful use of color, from Sibylla’s elaborate garments of embroidered silk to knight gear and uniform. Although the film has a very dark and sinister look and feel to it, Yates’ beautiful use of color really give it a nice contrast. An example of this is King Baldwin’s bright silver and gold mask that covers his leprosy eaten face, along with his army’s sky blue and gold uniform.

Because the movie is based on the ancient battle over Jerusalem between the Muslims and the Christians that still goes on to this day, it was bound to face some sort of controversy. However, Scott somehow manages to shy away from this in “Kingdom”.

As a professed Agnostic, Scott remained pretty neutral about the clash between the two religions. In fact, he portrays a particularly diplomatic time, between the second and third crusades, during a brief period of peace.

The movie (as most Hollywood movies do) ends in an idealistic fashion, even though it is made clear that peace in Jerusalem “remains elusive.”

This leads me to wonder, if it makes the whole premise of the film moot. However, despite some obvious holes in the plot, “Kingdom” remains a visually pleasing film about hope and glory that the cast and crew should be proud to have on their r?sum?s.