ninth symphony films - movie reviews

15 MINUTES (2001)

DIRECTOR  -  brian helgeland

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  adventure

LENGTH  -  132 minutes

RELEASED  -  11 may 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  columbia pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  a knight's tale

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $41,000,000
a knight's tale - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from a knight's tale at

buy the dvd from a knight's tale at

a peasant squire takes up the identity of his master when the knight suffers an untimely demise.

heath ledger knocked out one of director brian helgeland's front teeth with a broomstick when the two were demonstrating a jousting move. it was several months before helgeland's mouth had healed enough to repair the damage. he says it was the only jousting injury during filming.


picture from a knight's tale

picture from a knight's tale

picture from a knight's tale


three out of four possible stars

Add together a few horses, a couple of lances, and a few tunes by queen and david bowie, and you'll get the latest medieval film offering from hollywood. A Knight's Tale mixes these unlikely companions quite successfully and after a few minutes you'll get used to the classic rock soundtrack that accompanies the film and forget the fact that "We Will Rock You" was written about seven hundred years after the film takes place. But what the unusual soundtrack does for the film is make it a little bit more interesting than a straight-laced hero quest. For that is exactly what it is. From the hero's quest, to the atonement with the father, to the woman as seductress, this film could be a flagship property for Joseph Campbell's hero theory.

the film begins with the frustrated squire, William Thatcher, played by heath ledger, together with his humorous companions, taking on the identity of a fake knight to get money for food. William has always wanted to be a knight and he figures that taking the armor and horse of the recently deceased man will allow him to make his dream come true. And indeed, after a short while, William becomes one of the most celebrated knights of the jousting tournaments. And the filmmakers should be given a thumbs up for creating exciting battle scenes without the added element of flying blood and graphic violence. This film has barely a drop of blood in it, and yet the fighting looks absolutely real. But an even better part of this film is the ensemble element of William's companions. Buddies Roland and Wat, played by Mark Addy and Alan Tudyk respectively.

They are the requisite comiedic relief in the film, but prove to be much more than just requisite characters. They both have a subtle way of delivering their jokes and one-liners which make them much more interesting to watch than if they were just the stupid comic relief. Add to that the fact that Alan Tudyk has some of the most original expressions on the planet (related to his character's love of food and lack of it).

Another colorful element to the story is the character of Geoffrey Chaucer, played by Paul Bettany. Like Addy and Tudyk, Bettany's performance adds so much more to the film than just a few good funny lines. And his delivery would look quite at home on a theater's stage. Another character in the film who quite possibly would never have actually existed, but whose performance was a great addtion, was that of Laura Fraser's character, Kate. She is a woman armorer who decides that she must prove herself a worthy metal smith in a world dominated by men. She is a person that female audience members, like this author, can root for and identify with, given that the female lead in this movie is sort of vaporous.

And that has to be one of the only failings in this film. Jocelyn, played by Shannyn Sossamon, has no history and no character development in the film. Her family is never present in the film and never is the audience told what background she has. Sure, she sits on the dais during all the jousts, but who are her parents? Where is she from? How old is she? She has no history. And the audience knows nothing more about her at the end of the movie than was little is presented during the cource of the film. She has some good opinions about the lack of women's rights in the 1300's, but other than that, her character looks to be nothing more than eye candy. A few strange hairstyles and some clothing that would be better suited on a coco chanel model sum up this shallow character.

And speaking of characters, if not for the strong performances of his co-stars, Heath Ledger's performance would not be enough to carry the weight of this large film. There are so many elements, jousts, and costumes, that it really takes a strong personality to carry the lead role. It is probably fortunate that Ledger is backed up by a good cast, because the villain in the film, Count Adhemar, played by a deliciously evil Rufus Sewell, is a very commanding character who seems to fill up much of the screen.

Although good will almost certainly triumph over evil, it is sort of hard to believe that Ledger can triumph over sewell's character, because Count Adhemar commands so much of the story when he's on screen. And that is something else that was strange about the film. The villain was in no way redeemable. He was a one-dimensional character. He needed something to push him over the edge to become thoroughly despicable, or he should have had a "nice" quality to make his character more complete.

But with these critical lapses in character development, viewers should look at this movie how it was meant to be seen: as a romping medieval adventure. Another plus for this film is that its two and a quarter hour length is easily disguised by the fast moving screenplay. Too many filmmakers of action films feel they have to drag on the story for three and a half hours for the viewer to like the film. And this film is longer than most. But it never feels that way.

The mostly strong cast, the fun soundtrack (which works quite well), and the interesting subject matter, make up for the lack of character development. It is a hard shoot for a film to become something perfect, and this movie has a few flaws that keep it from being an extraordinary movie. But it still has enough good qualities to rate it better than average. And possibly much better than average, considering Hollywood's current creative slump at the box-office.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs columbia pictures 2001
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