Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Ironclad (DVD Review)

DVD review of the historical epic Ironclad set in 1215 England and starring James Purefoy, Kate Mara & Brian Cox

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Dir: Jonathan English (Minotaur, Nailing Vienna)
Cast: James Purefoy, Brian Cox, Kate Mara, Jason Fleming, Mackenzie Crook, Paul Giamatti, Derek Jacobi, Vladamir Kulich, Jamie Foreman, Aneurin Barnard, Charles Dance
UK/USA/Germany, 2011

Reason to see: An epic historical with swords and a cast including James Purefoy, Brian Cox, and Charles Dance made Ironclad an easy must-see film.

Set in 1215 and following the actions of King John against supporters of the Magna Carta, a contract to uphold rights to the people of England, we are presented with a historical tale of epic importance at a pivot point in history. The film centres on the conflict of King John (Paul Giamatti) against Baron Albany (Brian Cox) Knight Templar Marhsall (James Purefoy of Solomon Kane & Rome) and a handful of others who fight for the Magna Carta and the newly instated rights of the people of England. A historically set action film that also has a great heart and message about the value and challenges of standing up against tyranny. It's a great good vs evil story with a fantastic ensemble cast, who along with James Purefoy, Brian Cox and Paul Giamatti, we have Jason Fleming as the randy fighter Becket, Mackenzie Crook as the skilled archer Marks, Derek Jacobi as the Rochester owner Cornhill and Kate Mara as his very young wife Isabel. Plus, as a total treat Charles Dance as Archbishop Langdon. I love Charles Dance (mostly from Aliens 3, but he's lovely in everything).

I loved the sense of strength in the film, along with the depiction of skill, courage, persistence and resilance. I didn't always connect to the emotional journey of the character of Marshal but I find The Templars a bit of a mystery and can't quite connect warriors with religion. The amazing thing was I did often connect to the emotional resonance of James Purefoy's performance of the character Marshal , which was a real treat. I also quite enjoyed the supporting cast whose characters did a great job of adding in people to love & hate, as well as cheer for along the way. Brian Cox in particular is top-notch here playing the Albany, a stubborn and charismatic leader in a time where people are scared to take action.

I've been noticing & enjoying recent films that are historically set and choose a very specific place or event to hold to like Centurian and The Eagle - both of which are fictionalizations but has a similarly weighty spirit to them as Ironclad, which is completely centred in history. I think it's an interesting choice to hone in on an idea, task or moment and stick with it and feel the weight of the journey. There really is something there about sticking with it, especially as historical set films often take on the mammoth and overwhelming task of biopics and showing a whole life, but with Ironclad we can easily see the cause and effect of lives while it stands firmly fixated and planted in a hold out at Rochester Castle.

Ironclad is dark, grisly and often grim which adds to it's weight the seriousness and strength of endurance of the people involved. There are many battle scenes and depictions of violence that may turn viewers off, but I always felt that although gruesome, they never felt gratuitous. The battlefield isn't a pretty place, and Ironclad doesn't glaze it over for us. It does bring us an interesting story with great characters to connect to and root for.

Warnings: Brutal Violence, Torture, Gore, Disturbing Ideas

DVD Extras:
  • Feature Commentary with director and co-writer Jonathan English on the inspiration, concept & research on real events that the film was based on including the idea of centred a film around a castle, discusses the casting incluidng actors previous work, the look of the film including how it developed and it's the connection to the source material & research done, the characters (especially King John) and their place in history, wanting the battles to feel brutal and violent and depicting them in a way we haven't seen before, the weapons used, discussing the technical aspects including the prothestics used in the film, what types of cameras were used, use of DI and what effects are practical vs digitally or a combination of the two, films that inspired Ironclad: Warlord with Charlton Heston & Braveheart plus how the stories connection to Seven Samurai & The Magnificent Seven, and choice and the challenge to film on a castle and the central theme of the film and it's connection to the Magna Carta, and particular directors commentaries that he enjoyed & learned from.
  • Trailer
Ironclad is available on DVD as of August 2, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I'd recommend it to fans of historical action films that are more serious in nature

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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