Ironclad is a medieval action film from director Jonathan English. It is set in England, in the year 1215. The King (Paul Giamatti) has been forced to renounce his crown by a rebel band of barons and now upon the Church’s blessing is taking it back by destructive force. A group of Knights Templar are what stands between him and domination in a last stand holding a castle.
James Purefoy stars as the ‘uber Templar’, Marshall, who Jonathan English portrays as a kind of medieval special ops. There is a promising introduction to them, but apart from that it doesn’t really deliver much more on this take.
Ironclad feels like it wants to be an epic fare but given its limited budget, doesn’t quite deliver. Sets, action sequences and armies feel small, rather like a made for TV film. It also seemed to flitter between noticeable digital look and film at points, which was slightly jarring. It’s fight sequences though are uniquely brutal, which was refreshing change, lending to a more realistic approach than most modern epics actually depict. The moment Purefoy gets out his broadsword, bodies literally rip in half, blood goes flying and flesh can be seen hanging from the bone. There is also a great take on the usual hostage at gunpoint moment one sees in films, though here it is a hostage at ‘swordpoint’.
Brian Cox & newcomer Aneurin Barnard delivered the best performances and added weight to the characters and situations The rest of characters are fairly standard in this ensemble British cast and though Paul Giamatti seemed to slip in an out of an ambiguous accent, he was believably psychotic as King John.
Ironclad is almost like the 28 days later of action films. You can see what it’s trying to achieve and it is admirable. But, it always feels as if it’s trying to be something more than its budget allows, which is an inherent fault from the outset.
I wouldn’t recommend it for someone looking for a grand epic along the lines of Gladiator, Braveheart or Kingdom of Heaven, but for someone interested in the medieval it might be worth a look as it does offer enough a fresh take.
Action, History, Drama | UK , 2011 | 15 (UK) | Warner Bros |Dir: Jonathan English | James Purefoy, Kate Mara, Brian Cox , Paul Giamatti, Jason Flemyng, Mackenzie Crook