A Knight's Tale

A Knight's Tale


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

In the days when knights were bold and jousting was the new rock-and-roll, peasants and poets had a pretty rotten time. If you didn't have a noble pedigree, stretching back to the feudal fiefdoms, you weren't considered worthy of being chosen for competition.

The first time Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany) appears on the scene, he's in the buff, covered in mud and cuts, penniless, somewhere in France. No need to apologise, or explain, he's a charmer who lives off his wits, has a serious gambling problem and prefers to observe the internecine nature of romance, rather than participate.

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A Knight's Tale is a hybrid, not exactly The Court Jester, hardly Errol Flynn and the maidens fair. Brian Helgeland produced, directed and wrote the thing, which means that when he decided to have the audience at a jousting contest sing We Will Rock You at the top of their lungs, there was no one to tell him to stop being silly.

It's the silliness that saves A Knight's Tale from sentimental meltdown. When the son of a thatcher, called William Thatcher (Heath Ledger), is persuaded that he has the talent to take on the toffs at their knockabout games and become the David Beckham of the jousting circuit, attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in the royal enclosure (Shannyn Sossamon), as well as impressing The Black Prince (James Purefoy), you might suspect that Barbara Cartland had not died in vain.

With the help of Geoffrey C, who fakes his Patents Of Nobility, William Thatcher becomes Sir Ulrich Von Lichtenstein of Gelderland. Aided and abetted by his pals (Mark Addy and Alan Tudyk) and an innovative Scots blacksmithette (Laura Fraser), who crafts him a suit of lightweight armour, the new knight captures the imagination of the public. He still has to beat the dastardly Count Adamar (Rufus Sewell), who also has his eye on the most beautiful girl in the royal enclosure. Will the brave, blond-haired Ulrich knock the cheaty, arrogant Adamar off his horse and win the girl?

What matters more is whether this mixture of stunt riding spectacle and tongue-in-cheek works. Surprisingly, it does. Almost.

Cliches abound, parody is alive and well endowed, fun fuels the engine. You can criticise the movie as much as you like and you'd probably be right, but what you won't do is sit stony-faced.

Reviewed on: 30 Aug 2001
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A Knight's Tale packshot
A peasant pretends to be a nobleman in order to compete on the jousting circuit.
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Director: Brian Helgeland

Writer: Brian Helgeland

Starring: Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Rufus Sewell, Shannyn Sossamon, Paul Bettany, Alan Tudyk, Laura Fraser, Christopher Casenove, James Purefoy

Year: 2001

Runtime: 132 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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