Ironclad takes place during the end of King John’s reign somewhere around the Baron Wars. The movie makes a big deal about Magna Carta, Templars, and the siege are Rochester. The movie takes more than a few liberties with history I believe.
Still, it’s not supposed to be a historical documentary so who really cares that they fudged details. They got the large scale picture right. Sort of. As far as the film is concerned King John is forced to sign Magna Carta. Some time later he’s pissed off and invites some Danish mercenaries over to help him retake his land and kill all of the Baron’s. Some Baron’s and hired mercenaries disagree, as does a Templar for other reasons. To stop John’s advancement they decide they have to hold Rochester since that is apparently the key to him controlling southern England. That’s the movie. Most of it is is them holed up in that tiny place. I feel like only half an hour was used to set up everything till they got there.
The movie isn’t the most violent out there. There are far worse, but there still is a fair share of blood and hacking of limbs. Actually, there are other things that disturbed me more such as punishing someone by cutting out their tongue and chopping off hands and feet. There’s also a bit towards the end where a bunch of pigs are burned alive, for a reason. Those were probably worse than the general fight scenes and that was more of a mental thing.
The action is handled pretty well. The fight scenes are pretty good for the type of film it is. I still have a hard time believing anyone can run around with a broadsword that is nearly as tall as them and use it with one hand. Still as good as the action is it really isn’t that much and it isn’t new. I tend to enjoy these kind of films and to be honest it was all something I’d seen before and I feel like the film makers were very aware of that.
The pacing didn’t help either. They get to Rochester early on and you have no change of scenery really for the rest of the movie and there isn’t much action. I think they show two or three assaults and that’s it. A lot of the movie focuses on the characters and I guess they tried to develop them, but I didn’t really see that.
The cast was good, or at least as good as they were allowed to be. James Purefoy isn’t exactly riveting and Derek Jacobi is horribly under used. That man has amazing talent that is just wasted here (though he is still great). Brian Cox is like he is in most movies and does a good job, though again not used enough. Jason Flemyng and Mackenzie Crook are also nice, but their characters are basically just there to hack and slash. Flemyng gets a bit more attention. Kate Mara is good, but I felt like she didn’t really fit in, though that was more of a character thing. Tiberius is played by Vladimir Kulich and I kept hoping he’d get a nice speech somewhere. For basically just standing around, he caught my attention. Paul Giamatti of course plays King John. He does a really good job as far as I’m concerned. It was hard to take him seriously a few times simply because it was him, particularly during one of his infamous angry speeches. It just seemed very reminiscent of the ones he’s done before and it kind of ruined the moment. He did a hell of a job though and I’m glad the accent was just ignored.
I still really liked the movie, but there are defiantly better versions of the same thing. The director needed to either choose between making it an action, hack and slash movie or a drama, because in my mind he failed to balance the two, which I think was the intention.