When an elderly nobleman dies in the middle of a jousting tournament William (Heath Ledger) decides to take his place in order to win the prize. Only men of nobility are allowed enter the tournament but William and his humble friends Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk) are desperate. Covered in armour the crowd do not notice the switch and by luck William manages to win the tournament. Inspired by his victory he persuades his friends to help him enter another tournament. First he has to learn how to joust properly and then he has to give himself a new noble identity so that he will be allowed compete. With the help of his friends William becomes Ulrich von Lichtenstein of Gelderland.
This action/romance movie may be set in an age of kings, castles and heroic knights but this is very much a modern movie. The dialogue, the humour, the music are all modern and after the first few minutes if you are still in doubt the crowd watching the jousting tournament do a “Mexican Wave”! The blend of old and new somehow works really well and adds a comic element that’s hard not to enjoy. As well as the comic element there are spectacular action scenes.
William and his “mates” look like lads having fun especially when they are in the pub singing “football style” chants like “He’s quick. He’s funny. He makes me loads of money. Gelderland! Gelderland!” This image is backed up by some great rock anthems like Queen’s We Will Rock You and Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back in Town. All the characters are made more likeable by the fact that none of them are portrayed as flawless.
The story itself is simple enough: peasant boy wants to be a heroic knight, beat the baddie and get the girl. It never gets too serious and is quite predictable but there are some nicely timed flashbacks that help keep the story alive.
Heath Ledger is good in this hero role. Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk and Paul Bettany are all great at adding the comic element. Shannyn Sossamon plays the beautiful Jocelyn and she is definitely part of the modern element in the movie as she doesn’t look like she belongs in the 14th century! Rufus Sewell is also good as William’s rival Count Adhemar.
Lasting thought: Is it possible for someone to change their stars?