UK Release date: 11th June 2010
Watched on DVD Sunday 19th February 2012.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
This film has been lurking in my DVD collection for some time now and when it came up in conversation the other week I decided to give it a look. I dug it out and placed it on top of the ‘to watch next’ pile. A suitable time slot came around and here we are; film watched and review on the way… I’ll give you a brief summary first and then I’ll tell you what I thought of it.
It is the fourteenth century and England is being ravaged by the bubonic plague (a.k.a. the Black Death). Superstition and fear of holy retribution have combined to make the world a very dangerous place. A monk, Osmund, who is in love with a girl, Averill, decides to leave the confines of the monastery and go on a quest with a knight, Ulrich, and his band of mercenaries. The bishop has tasked with finding a village that has not been touched by the plague. There are rumours of necromancy and, of course, the church cannot stand for that! On the way they are set upon by bandits and this is where Osmund discovers that Averill may be dead. When they make it to the village they are met cordially enough but suspicion falls on the head man, Hob, and a healer, Langiva. When she hints to Osmund that Averill may not be dead after all things start to get interesting… I will leave it there or the Spoiler Police (Necromancy Division) will be casting spells on me (again).
Quite a well made film shot in a, kind of, washed out palate that gave it quite a stark look. Some great stunts, including one rather excellent fight scene with the bandits in the forest. The performances were all very good, especially Sean Bean as Ulrich, Eddie Redmayne as Osmund and Carice van Houten as Langiva. Honourable mentions must also go to; David Warner as the Abbott, Kimberley Nixon as Averill, Tim McInnerny as Hob, Emun Elliott as Swire, Johnny Harris as Mold, Andy Nyman as Dalywag, Tygo Gernandt as Ivo, John Lynch as Wolfstan, Jamie Ballard as Griff and Tobias Kasimirowicz as Grimbold.
Although it’s never going to win any prizes as a great piece of filmmaking, I still found this an interesting film that asks some intriguing questions about religion and human nature. I could go off on a long diatribe about how organised religions cause more harm than good in the world but I will resist; this is not the place for that. Needless to say I enjoyed aspects of this film, if not the thing was a whole. There is a section at the end that I don’t believe is needed; it paints Osmund in a very bad light and I found it superfluous. Over all I guess it’s worth a look for the questions it raises, but it does get a little bogged down in places and can seem a little slow. Even so… Recommended (just).
My score: 6.4/10.
IMDb Score: 6.5/10 (based on 16,166 votes at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 68/100 (based on 56 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 50/100 (based on 15,726 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
If you’re crazy enough… You can find me on Facebook at:
Wolfstan: The fumes of the dead are in the air like poison. The plague, more cruel and more pitiless than war, descended upon us. A pestilence, that would leave half of our kingdom dead. Where did it come from? What carried its germ? The priests told us it was God's punishment. For what sin? What commandment must we break that could earn this? No, we knew the truth. This was not God's work, but devilry. Or witchcraft. But our task, to hunt down a demon, was God's cure.
Osmund: May I ask, how did your husband die?
Langiva: Men like you killed him.
Osmund: Men like me?
Langiva: Men of God.
Griff: Where does the Church believe this pestilence has come from?
Osmund: I don't believe God is punishing us, like many do.
Swire: I say from France, where all foul things emerge.
Hob: [Ulrich and his men realize they've been drugged, and attempt to draw their weapons. Hob relieves Wolfstan of his dagger and holds it to Ulrich's throat] As a Christian, you'll appreciate the concept of betrayal.