Directed by Brian Helgeland
Written by Brian Helgeland
Cast: Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Paul Bettany, Shannyn Sossamon, and Rufus Sewell
Length: 2 hours and 12 minutes
Genre: Action, adventure, romance
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Description from IMDB:
“After his master dies, a peasant squire, fueled by his desire for food and glory, creates a new identity for himself as a knight.”
In the wake of his master’s death during a joust tournament, peasant-squire William (Heath Ledger) convinces his compatriots, Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk), to help him compete as a knight by the name of Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein. After winning the contest, William decides that it is now his time to shine and rise above his current station as a peasant, though his friends argue that he isn’t a noble and can’t compete; while discussing this, they come upon Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany), who is more than willing to forge patents of nobility, as long as they will provide food (and clothing). The group travel to tournaments and William falls in love with Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), a beautiful noble woman who is also being pursued by the dangerously ambitious Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell). While William courts Jocelyn and rises through the tournaments, his pride gets the best of him as he seeks to defeat Adhemar.
William is a dreamer; while Roland and Wat dream of going home and eating cakes respectively, William wants to “change his stars” after growing up as the son of a thatcher before becoming a squire. He is ambitious, fearless, and proud of his accomplishments, though this does get him into trouble later in the film. When he devotes his wins to Jocelyn as a sign of his love, she asks the opposite of him; she wants him to lose in order to show that she means more to him than his pride and accomplishments. While he initially storms off declaring that he will not bend to her demands, he does allow himself to take loses in order to prove his devotion.
Though there are funny parts of the film brought about by multiple characters, Roland and Wat are the two who stand out most. Wat and Chaucer dislike one another from the start, which is only exacerbated when Chaucer loses his clothes (again) after gambling. Wat is quick to anger and, initially, doesn’t want to go along with William’s plan because he simply wants sweet cakes. Roland is his foil in that he is a bit more mature, though equally ready to give William a difficult time. Despite this, the two are his most devout followers throughout the film. In addition multiple comedic parts of the film, montages occur multiple times. There is a training-montage, a William-winning-montage, a William-being-hit-by-lances-after-Jocelyn-tells-him-to-lose-montage, and possibly others that I simply forgot.
A Knight’s Tale (2001) features an anachronistic (something that is not in its correct historical timeline) soundtrack from the very beginning; the crowd begins the *stomp-stomp-clap* intro of “We Will Rock You” by the band Queen during the joust. Other examples are the use of “Low Rider” while William is training and Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town” playing when William and company return to London near the end of the film. In addition to the music being modern, the events themselves are sprinkled with references to contemporary spectator sports. There are crowd members attempting to do the wave, vendors walking in the stands selling food and drink, and spectators trying to catch a helmet knocked loose much like fans do with foul balls at major league baseball games today.
When I was younger, I was obsessed with all things Medieval and that had to do with warriors in ancient/historic times. A Knight’s Tale (2001) really caught my interest due to my experience taking part in a faux-joust we put on in my fifth-grade class and the film’s use of contemporary rock music in lieu of the more traditional route of orchestration appropriate for that period. This is a fun movie that, though it doesn’t break from the traditional 15 beats, keeps the viewer interested and engaged. The stakes aren’t overly high for a literal rags-to-riches story that features some of the best actors in its genre. If you’re looking for likeable characters, a villain who is easy to despise, and more montages than you can shake a lance at, you might want to check out A Knight’s Tale (2001).
Verdict: 3 broken lances out of 5
Recommended for: Fans of spectator sports, those who enjoy jousting, fans of classic rock, people who want to see Paul Bettany’s rump, those who like Alan Tudyk, and those who like the hero’s journey.
Not recommended for: Those who mind intentionally anachronistic choices in music, people who don’t want to see Paul Bettany’s rump, those who dislike historical figures shoehorned into movies, those who dislike Alan Tudyk (liars), or children under 13 unless accompanied by an adult.