Boys and Their Combat Toys in 13th-Century Knights' Tale Ironclad
A knights tale drunk on carnage, Ironclad is set around the battle for Rochester Castle in 1215, the age of Robin Hood. A disillusioned Knights Templar, Thomas Marshall (James Purefoy), William de Albany (Brian Cox), and their band of men hold out against a horde of Danish mercenaries led by King John (Paul Giamatti), determined to renege on the compromises of the Magna Carta and get his Divine Right back. Cox seems like hes being held up by his perpetually arched eyebrow, while Purefoys dourly bearded performance is a shaky keystone for a movie. His drab underplaying is the general rule, making Giamattis insomniac-eyed mad monarch a welcome distraction, not chewing scenery so much as flecking it in spittle. Director Jonathan Englishs combat scenes are pell-mell hack-ups, with inserts of steel cleaving through torsos and brain-pans guaranteed to please Deadliest Warrior aficionados. The reproduction of siege warfare is catnip for arms-and-armor geeks, but while Ironclad captures the casual cruelty and flesh-and-bone violence of the 13th century, it fails to do the same in the more intimate material set in the downtime between assaults. In sections detailing Marshalls brooding faith, courtly passion with Kate Maras fair lady, and mentorship of Aneurin Barnards callow squire, Englishs tapestry is decidedly faded.
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.