A Knight's Tale (Columbia Pictures 2001) photo
Review by Amy Harlib

Heath Ledger .... William, Rufus Sewell .... Count Adhemar, Mark Addy .... Roland, Shannyn Sossamon .... Jocelyn, Paul Bettany .... Chaucer, Laura Fraser (II) .... Kate, Alan Tudyk .... Wat, Bérénice Bejo .... Christiana, Scott Handy .... Germaine, James Purefoy .... Colville, Leagh Conwell .... Young William, Christopher Cazenove .... John Thatcher, Steve O'Donnell (I) .... Simon the Summoner, Jonathan Slinger .... Peter the Pardoner, Nick Brimble .... Sir Ector
(source: IMDB:  http://us.imdb.com/Title?0183790)

Go to: Columbia Pictures: Official Site

Count Adhemar: You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting. In what world could you possibly beat me? - AKT


A Knight's Tale, appears to be very deliberately intended to get youngsters and teenagers interested in medieval history by incorporating rock and roll music into its score; by endorsements by Rolling Stone Magazine; by casting attractive young performers in the lead roles; and by some judicious use of anachronistic behavior. Will these strategies work?

I hope so, for this movie offers great fun and visual dazzle by being a sort of 'Chariots of Fire' set in 14th Century England and France.

The story follows a young peasant who dreams of defying the taboo prohibiting anyone not of the nobility from competing in the knightly jousting tournaments and how he achieves this goal through a combination of luck, determination and the help of friends who care for, believe in him and wish to share the wealth of the winnings. Heath Ledger plays William Thatcher, a Cheapsider son of a common laborer whose forged noble identity as Sir Ulrich von Lichtenstein enables him to participate in jousting which this film depicts as the equivalent of contemporary X-treme sports complete with a circuit of various competitions, (held in several French locations), as one advances towards the 'World Championships' in London.

The protagonist enjoys the assistance of sympathetic, appealing, youthful and funny characters: plump Roland (Mark Addy) and flaming-haired, tall and thin Wat (Alan Tudyk) as his squires and acquiring for his herald, an unknown, glib and witty writer named Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany), yes, THAT Chaucer! Before long, a delightful 'proto-feminist' tough gal blacksmith and armorer Kate (Laura Fraser), whose existence the script rationalizes credibly, joins
the crew.

As this earnest fivesome work their way from one competition to the next with 'Sir Ulrich' rapidly advancing as he defeats one competitor after another, the hero soon must face a ruthless antagonist, the villainous Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell), who craves the championship and the gorgeous and feisty highborn Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), as much as 'Sir Ulrich does
and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Despite the predictability of the ultimate outcome of the story, the plot still manages to offer some interesting and surprising twists along the way,
with plenty of humor (some of it witty dialog, some of it anachronistic, playing to an outrageous degree, on the idea of jousting as having the medieval equivalent of modern competitive sports culture and all that implies).

'A Knight's Tale' also offers the expected plethora of exciting, colorful and spectacular jousting scenes, staged and photographed to up the ante each time so that the audience remains enthralled throughout, right up until the satisfying ending.

Will 'A Knight's Tale' entice young people into reading Chaucer and boning up on medieval history (perhaps by reading such popular accounts as Barbara Tuchman's 'A Distant Mirror')? One hopes so, but even if such a salutary effect fails to occur, the movie provides plenty of entertainment with its fine performers; dazzling sets, costumes and armor; spectacular CGI aerial shots of recreated 14th century Paris and London; lively jousts; and humorous bits (much of it satisfyingly character driven). More problematic aspects: the sometimes too contemporary patterns of speech in the dialog and the score by Carter Burwell whose lovely music, evocative of the period, gets all too frequently interrupted by the rock and roll songs ("We Will Rock
You", "We Are the Champions", "The Boys are Back in Town", etc.). These melodic intrusions, despite the sports or mood appropriateness of their lyrics, felt jarring to my sensibilities but might not bother younger viewers at all.

Any members of The Society for Creative Anachronisms and/or attendees of medieval/Renaissance festivals will be sure to be most appreciative of "A Knight's Tale' yet this film will certainly provide a colorful, adventurous (spiced with romantic elements), couple of hours fun for all comers.