The Braveheart wanna-be film, Ironclad, released in 2011, met immediately with some pretty serious mocking of it’s historical credentials. It was probably deserved. After all, King John of Magna Carta fame was actually victorious at the siege of Rochester Castle, despite it being defended by 95 knights and 45 soldiers. In the film, one bad-ass Templar knight and fewer than 20 vagrants, along with a few women and one white horse succeed in defending the keep and hand the King a crushing defeat. As Alex von Tunzelmann of the Guardian asked, what’s next? Napoleon wins massive victory at Waterloo? Americans triumph in Vietnam?
On the plus side, the film is fairly interesting in its depiction of 13th Century warfare and siege engineering. And the pig-bomb? Apparently, that part’s true. King John actually ordered 40 pigs to be slaughtered so that the timbers of a mine built under the castle could be greased and set on fire, causing the collapse of the keep. How awesome is that? Pig-bomb to the rescue. And in real life, rather than herd the pigs to their demise in the mine, the engineers got to eat the bacon before using the fat for the bomb. That’s a happy ending in my book, no matter what happened to the castle.
Overall, I found the film interesting and inspiring for the freedom-fighter aspects. They successfully dealt with some of the complex nature of legitimacy in both authority and rebellion, particularly the spiritual questions, even if nothing was really resolved. It was a good story, and it wasn’t bad, technically. There were some good performances by Brian Cox and Derek Jacobi as the barons and James Purefoy as the Templar. Paul Giamatti wasn’t bad as King John, and it was great to see Jamie Foreman as one of the men-at-arms. But the casting of the leading lady was pretty strange. With something like 90% of all movies everywhere casting British chicks as female leads, they had to put an American actress in THIS role? Hollywood keeps all the limey Kates, like Kate Beckinsale and Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet working with dialogue coaches so they can play American roles, but they dig up Kate Mara to play this British noble’s wife? I’m sorry, but all I could see was an inexperienced actress from suburban New York. She was great as a Kentucky girl in Shooter, but here, not so much. The best part about this movie? It’s currently free on Netflix. I give it 3 & 1/2 grunts.