Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ironclad - Surprisingly Enjoyable

The family was driving me nuts a few nights ago, leading me to seek refuge in my modest man-cave, where I pulled out my IPad to search Netflix for a "guys" movie. I came across "Ironclad", and even though I knew that it wasn't well received critically, not even getting widely distributed to theaters here in the States, I decided to commit to probably wasting a couple of hours to check it out. After all, it was a medieval-themed film that was supposedly heavy on the action - so I concluded there are worse ways to fritter away a solitary evening. To my utter surprise, I found that the movie was actually more enjoyable than not. Not a high classic by any means, and maybe my low expectations had something to do with it, but definitely there are worse selections in the historical fiction film library.

The film is VERY loosely based on the Barons War following the signing of Magna Carta, and the subsequent siege of Rochester Castle. The is also much in it that will drive knowledgeable viewers crazy - like the anachronisticly pagan Danish mercenaries fighting for the evil King John, and the small size of the forces both defending and attacking the castle. Also, there doesn't seem to have been much point to the main character being a Templar knight, breaking his vow of silence, and then having a tormented love affair with the daughter of Rochester Castle's owner. But the action scenes are really nice, even with the obviously limited budget the director had, and they comprise the overwhelming majority of the film - the plotting and character development is really secondary here. Some people might get dizzy from the first person perspective of the camera work, which is very jiggly at times, but I found it to lend an air of realism to the action; and the gritty and grimy color schemes are probably more characteristic of the era than medieval films that concentrate on royalty and tournaments.

Even though the characters are very one dimensional, the acting, when it is called for is actually very good. Paul Giamatti as King John is especially a thrill, even if played way over the top, particularly in a scene near the end where he gives a passionate and hysterically insane defense of the divine right of kings.

So, as I said, not an all-time great by any means, and the film is not for everyone - anyone with a low gore-fest tolerance should avoid this, and it is NOT a date night movie in no shape or form - but if you are looking for a blood-drenched medieval action film, you might find this one is your cup of tea.

For a sample of the action, here is a clip of John's initial assault on Rochester Castle:


  1. Great looking film. But would medieval soldiers say "Take cover?". What next? "Incoming!"

  2. Just my cup of tea!! No need to worry about a story line ----------- the action looks good enough!

  3. It was a good if grim movie, exactly like the period I believe...

  4. I hate this film with a passion. Scott's Robin Hood is the worst ever but the costumes and look of this "historical" film is scandalous, they looked like they'd walked in off the Hawk the Slayer set. I can excuse historical tweaks such as the French arriving several months early from a story telling point of view but if you are doing historical films put the actors and extras in historical costume which should not be all black! (rant off). :-)

  5. Great looking film. But would medieval soldiers say "Take cover?". What next? "Incoming!"

    Well, at least when the arrows get shot, the commanders say "loose" instead of "fire" :-)

    Unfortunately though, there are still the mandatory balls of fire being flung by the catapult.