A Knight’s Tale (2001)
Director: Brian Helgeland | Runtime: 2h 12mins | Action, Adventure, Romance
After the death of his knighted master, squire William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) assumes the identity in search of fame, glory and gold at multiple jousting competitions.
In every review you’ll read or hear of 2001’s A Knights Tale, the word ‘anachronism’ will be used multiple times. A simple definition is using something in a time it’s not from, in this case a crowd singing ‘We Will Rock You’ during a jousting tournament. This film truly embodies anachronism, and really isn’t afraid to squeeze every little ounce of modernity into a 15th Century tale.
Does it matter? Not really. Helgeland didn’t set out to make a medieval masterpiece like Ran (1985), or even a popcorn blockbuster like Gladiator from the previous year, instead it was pure and simple entertainment. There’s no fancy narrative, outstanding character arcs or destructive action sequences. Instead, we get a hugely charming and engaging performance from Heath Ledger, who is written a fake letter of nobility by a naked Paul Bettany. Taking his deceased knights armour, Ledger’s William Thatcher sets off in search of jousting fame to feed himself and the other servants whose lives were dedicated to someone now six feet under.
Although the actions scenes may not have a sense of grandiose or spectacle, but the jousting is exciting none the less. The riders taking much longer to charge at each other than it would in reality suggests the light entertainment that was being aimed for, silly but not negatively so. As this is set during the middle ages, Thatcher has to try and win the heart of Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), a nearby noblewoman who returns his affections after a series of jousting tournaments, even asking him to take a loss in the face of all the other knights trying to win in her name. It leads to a peculiar but highly captivating sequence in which Thatcher has to describe a dance from his native land, as it is tradition at the large celebrations that outsiders show their culture. As his nobility is faked, and he isn’t really from the Dutch lowlands in Gelderland, the entire dance is improvised, and starts very stilted quickly turning into a medieval rendition of a David Bowie song.
Less we forget the wonderful performance by Rufus Sewell as the dastardly Count Adhemar, who Thatcher is original beaten by, and is also trying to win the affection of Lady Jocelyn. He is about as evil and despicable as a middle age villain can be, with dark armour and hidden points within hollow joust heads. Like everything else it’s very cartoony and quite farcical, but by the end no one really cares as its captivating and enjoyable, we just go along with the ride.
Even though it’s not the deepest or most thoughtful film it does have a touching subplot of Williams past, his relationship with his father and the reasons behind chasing fame with such risk. It isn’t ground breaking writing, but its relatable, giving a warming emotion throughout without sacrificing the weight to humour.
With a wonderful soundtrack, incredibly entertaining performances and a easy to follow story A Knights Tale is rewatchability in a nutshell with many of those who have already seen it likely venturing into double figures for amount of watches. It won’t blow your mind, but it doesn’t have any real low points either, toeing the line between schlockly mess and popcorn entertainment in a way that really just leaves you satisfied, and even with a runtime of two and half hours it will really be some of the easiest watching you’ll find.