Directed by: Ridley Scott
This is one of those films that (much to our dismay) we simply missed seeing in the theaters back in 2005 (Hey, 30some years of averaging a movie (or so) a week), and yeah, we still miss some of the good ones. Well, Kingdom of Heaven is one such film. We first saw it on TV some years ago, or, more specifically, we saw the last 45-or-so minutes of it on TV (the main character’s amazing defense of the city of Jerusalem against a massive Muslim army), which caused us to want to watch it en-toto, only over the intervening years we never got the chance. It seemed that whenever it was on TV we always wound up arriving to it at the same point, watching the concluding action sequence. Once we did manage to see the opening half hour, but then missed the rest. It was only recently (with access to HBOGo), that we were finally able to view the film in its entirety. Needless to say, it was amazing.
It is the time of the Crusades during the Middle Ages, when the world was thrown into chaos for some 200-year as Europe and the Mid-East intersected in a massive collision of cultures, religions, and armies. As the film opens we meet the blacksmith Balian (Bloom) who has lost his family and nearly his faith. While the concerns of the world and the religious wars raging in the far-off Holy Land seem remote to him, he is inexorably pulled into that incredible drama, by a long-absent Lord, Godfrey of Ibelin (Neeson) who fathered him, and now invites Balian to travel to the Holy Land with him. Unfortunately, on the way there, the company is ambushed and Godfrey is killed. Before he dies, he knights Balian, and bequeaths him all of his lands.
Balian continues his journey to Jerusalem and it is then, amid the pageantry and intrigues of medieval Jerusalem that Balian falls in love with a woman of noble birth (Green), grows into a becoming a leader of men, and ultimately uses all his courage and skill to defend the city against staggering odds. It is through this noble quest that Balian the blacksmith learns the true meaning of knighthood. What transpires in the ancient city, where a fragile peace prevails, between the second and third crusades that Balian’s actions occur.
This is a truly amazing film, and so totally deserves to be watched as so much of what occurs clearly demonstrates the madness that revolves around the Holy Land, and much of that sentiment can be found in a speech that Balian passionately delivers near the end of the film, just prior to Saladin’s (Massoud) final assault on the city:
It has fallen to us, to defend Jerusalem, and we have made our preparations as well as they can be made. None of us took this city from Muslims. No Muslim of the great army now coming against us was born when this city was lost. We fight over an offence we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended. What is Jerusalem? Your holy places lie over the Jewish temple that the Romans pulled down. The Muslim places of worship lie over yours. Which is more holy? The wall? The Mosque? The Sepulchre? Who has claim? No one has claim. All have claim!... We defend this city, not to protect these stones, but the people living within these walls.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.