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Archive for June 14th, 2010

Black Death

Fourteenth century England is suffering under the deadly shadow of an outbreak of plague. A small group of mercenaries in the employ of the church are sent to a village that is seemingly immune to the Black Death to discover if their immunity is satanic in origin. The leader of the group, a knight named Ulric (Sean Bean) employs a young monk, Osmond (Eddie Redmayne) as a guide to help find the remote village but Osmond has his own secrets.

The biggest problem with the movie is a lack of focus and pace. The initial build-up is good and the later stages including the revel and epilogue are also good but the middle section all feels a little lightweight and pointless. The group take far too long to get to the village, this is clearly padding as they didn’t have enough story once they got there. On the subject of focus there really isn’t a clear protagonist or antagonist resulting in a lack of connection with the movie or its characters.

Directed by Christopher Smith who impressed last year with the horror/thriller Triangle. He handles a lot of the movie quite well particularly the deeper more thoughtful elements but is let down by poor action. Despite a good twist the movie really struggles to find any real meaning. As a concept the week script can’t decide if it wants to be Witchfinder General or The Wicker Man. A German/British co production the film was shot on location in Germany and fails to look much like England.

The most recognisable actor in the movie is Sean Bean whose character could have been the focus the movie needed but he doesn’t have the presence, charisma or acting ability to pull it off. Eddie Redmayne as Osmund has the more interesting part and does more with it but again isn’t able to carry the movie. The Dutch actress Carice van Houten (from the 2006 film Black Book) does lend a little class to the proceedings. Tim McInnerny’s presence is a little distracting as it is hard to see him as anything other than Captain Darling or Lord Percy from Blackadder.

On the whole the movie is actually more enjoyable than I have probably made it sound. There are lots of good things about the movie but as a whole it fails to gel together. Better casting and just a little more thought about the plot could have made a world of difference. The two stars I have given it could so easily have been three or four. Alternatively it could have forgone any pretensions and admitted it is a dumb movie but been the best and most fun dumb movie like Centurion.

Two Stars out of Five

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