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:: Kingdom Of Heaven

Is it a blessing or a curse to be a director closely associated with one genre of movie? Wes Craven is considered to be master of horror, Michael Bay is the man to call when you want explosions, M. Night Shylaman can always be counted on for a story with twist. When it comes to epics you can’t really go past Ridley Scott. That’s not to say that Scott can only make those kinds of films. In fact, compared to the other three directors mentioned he has a very diverse CV. It’s just that when he does venture into large-scale storytelling he does it bloody well. His latest event movie, Kingdom Of Heaven will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Gladiator if for no other reason than they are both about men with swords. But if you dig a little deeper you with see more legitimate similarities both thematically and stylistically.

Scott has never been one to shy away from mixing action and a love story and he is a self-described “star maker”, giving the likes of Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe and Sigourney Weaver their first big break. This time around it’s Orlando Bloom in the hot seat, and although he is something of a star already, this is the first opportunity he’s been given to carry a film on his own.

Set during the Crusades, Bloom plays Bailyn, a young blacksmith who is prompted to take part in the Holy War by two events: the suicide of his young wife and the unexpected arrival of his estranged father. In the blink of an eye he finds himself in the desert defending the city of Jerusalem, inherits his father’s land and turns it into an oasis and even finds time to fall in love with the wife of one of the Knights Templar. As it is the film only runs for just over two hours, but given another hour we might have even seen Bailyn master interstellar travel.

The melodrama is punctuated by some outstanding action sequences but in a post-Lord Of The Rings world, digitised armies swarming over the desert will raise barely raise the pulse of your average audience member. Having said that, the performances are all solid considering how thin the material is; Bloom delivers a focussed performance as a character so noble it borders on messianic, Liam Neeson further corners the mentor market, while Jeremy Irons makes the most of his supporting role.

Kingdom Of Heaven never strays too far from safe territory. The good guys are as pure as driven snow and the bad guys are moustache twirlers. The glaring subtext of this film is the parallels it has to present day conflicts. It makes the point without threat of subtlety, that irrespective of whether someone is Christian or Muslim, deep down we are all the same and all seek peace. These are admirable sentiments but could have been made all the more powerful if the characters on both sides had been fully developed characters.

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www.kingdomofheavenmovie.com