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I shall confess to God when I see him... not to you.


Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut
(2005)

Ridley Scott's generally had pretty good casting instincts; it's usually been his skills at recognising quality scripts that are at fault. Here he trips up in both areas. Orlando Bloom is quite unbelievably awful, so much so that you question if Scott just got lucky in the past. And William Monahan, on the evidence of this and Body of Lies is an unredeemable hack, his scripts all exercises in as being as unsubtle and clunky as they possibly can (The Departed is merely okay, and certainly not Oscar-worthy). His dialogue beggars belief too; If you've got Neeson or Irons uttering it, you can paper over a lot of crimes, but with Bloom, every shot rendering him a walking Timotei advert, you're lost.

But it's also a problem that Scott's become such a mechanical, by-the-numbers director. In retrospect, it feels that something may have changed after the failure of Legend, and since then he's directed interchangeable sequences rather than films he has an overriding "vision" for. I'm sure there's a great Crusades film to be made; unfortunately Verhoeven could never get his off the ground.

This is really a two-star effort, but it's raised by some impressive supporting turns that get room to breathe in this version. Leading the pack is Edward Norton, whose leprous King Baldwin shows very clearly that any hype surrounding the actor is much-deserved. Ghassan Massoud is absolutely riveting as Saladin also. There's decent work from Brendan Gleeson and Alexander "What Arabic supporting player am I cast as this week?" Siddig. Eva Green is only sporadically effective (probably due to having to play opposite a complete plank in most of her scenes. And Martin Csokas seems to think he's a Bond villain. Or Tim Curry. Either way, this is a film that goes from his cartoonishness to Norton and Massoud's nuance to Bloom's incompetence, often in a couple of scenes. You also get Kevin McKidd in two or three scenes before getting killed unceremoniously off-camera.

And I can't think why they changed the historical Balian from a Muslim-hater born into wealth, to a poor liberal blacksmith… Hollywood, eh?

***

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