Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Thirteen, Part One – ‘Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut’ (2005)
Film fanatics and friends Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. With films from every decade since the 1930s, and movies from Italy, France, Japan, Sweden and China, there is plenty of variety, and this week’s choices, despite sharing a basis in war are very different to one another.
First up is Yasser’s choice and he’s gone for a Ridley Scott epic with an all-star cast. Fred, though, is a bit confused.
You can read the entries from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.
To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.
Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
Fred: I know you love an epic, but tell me why ‘Kingdom of Heaven‘ merits inclusion in your top 15
Yasser: This movie is one of those that questions morality. It invokes questions about actions and their consequences. It’s a movie that constantly refers back to man’s conscience
YA: The content is good, but yes, the questions posed, the thought-provoking, moral conscience stands out more. How did you find it?
FS: I’m worried. When I gave ‘Amelie‘ an eight you reacted like I’d said it was a terrible film, but this really is a terrible movie
YA: (laughs) What was it about ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ you didn’t like?
FS: This is far and away the worst film you’ve made me watch so far
YA: Oh dear!
FS: It failed the basic test of a movie in that it was boring… VERY boring. I was watching the clock after about 40 minutes
YA: Were you sleep-deprived? Or hungry? Or in need of a poo? I ask because I can’t watch a movie comfortably if my body won’t let me
YA: I know it’s a slow-paced movie
FS: Slow pacing is fine. Plenty of my choices are slow. It was just so dull! Orlando Bloom – can we start with him?
YA: Yes, let’s start with Bloom
FS: He hasn’t got it. He’s a weak screen presence and couldn’t carry the film. I’ve seen ‘Pirates of the Caribbean‘ four times and I still forget that he’s in it
YA: He hasn’t got the dominant presence when rousing his men before battle
FS: It was like when Tim Henman used to try to look passionate. You know it’s not really ‘him’. A film like this needs a really strong central performance. Charlton Heston he is not. Russel Crowe he is not
YA: No, he’s not. He has the look of someone who should be in romantic comedies – a pretty boy. He’s not the reason I like this film
FS: I cannot believe this is on your list. I think it’s must be one of the biggest wastes of talent I’ve ever seen. Good actors, good director and it just doesn’t work
YA: I love the direction. Scott is a master movie maker
YA: Really? I think his big productions are awesome
FS: When his films go wrong they tend to be boring rather than totally awful… ‘G.I. Jane‘ excepted – that was just awful
YA: Was there any other cast members that you didn’t like?
FS: Sometimes I think when a film gets filled up with lots of well-known actors, the director feels like he doesn’t need to direct them to get good performances. With the exception of Edward Norton and maybe Jeremy Irons I think that is what happened here. Some really talented actors stray into OTT mode or are totally forgettable
YA: Norton gave, I think, one of his best performances. There was a delivery in voice, tone… subtle things that come out from the screen that I liked
YA: What about Liam Neeson? What did you think of him?
FS: There is a man wasting his talent by accepting highly paid cameos. I really like him, but I think he phones in a lot of these performances. Maybe he’s clever and taking the big pay cheque for 15 minutes work lets him do more personal, less marketable stuff that he wants to do
FS: Brendan Gleeson is another actor I really like and I was shocked how poor he was in this. He displayed no control. He can be a bit of ham and he hams it up here
YA: I disagree, but okay
FS: I was quite pleased that Jeremy Irons wasn’t playing a villain. He’s normally so over the top that you hardly notice him in this. He can do the business now and again, but I normally think he’s pretty useless
FS: Sheen’s performance was also over done. None of them had much time to make an impression. Massoud was good I suppose, but no-one was impressive. You haven’t mentioned Eva Green or Marton Csokas. Does that mean you thought they were poor?
YA: I didn’t like their characters. Green wasn’t very good, though she brought a naive quality the role needed. Csokas was a good villain for the most part, but then his role diminished as it was no longer required
FS: I thought she was one of the better performers but he was a cardboard villain. Badly written and broadly played. I still can’t understand what it is you love about this film so much. Even with something like ‘Borat‘ I can see why people loved it, but this… no
YA: I like the story and the questions it poses. I like how in a time when the media is, for the most part, very anti-Muslim, it illustrates that Muslims can and do respect other faiths. I don’t know if you can understand that
FS: I suspected that would be part of the reason. Did you not find it a bit transparent, like Scott was desperate to make a pro-Islamic film against the backdrop of the war on terror?
YA: I find solace in it if I’m honest. After the terrible events of 2001, it’s felt like the majority of the media are quick to talk about ‘jihad’, ‘honour killings’, ‘terrorists’ etc. so for a Hollywood film like ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ to be released in 2005 feels like a step in the right direction
FS: It seems like a sentimental choice, which is fair enough
YA: Did you enjoy any part of it?
FS: I can’t fault the production values, and the technical aspects were very impressive. The battle scenes were well staged. I’m not faulting Scott for those things, it’s the performances he drew from his actors that let him down
YA: Just the cast?
FS: The story didn’t interest me. I didn’t care about the characters. If they’d all died at the end I wouldn’t have cared
FS: I found the whole film didn’t interest me. I lost the thread a couple of times as my mind wandered. I’m not even sure it said anything of value… sorry!
YA: I like the message behind the film. The film is very much about community. Balian of Ibelin (Bloom) makes it clear that he’s not defending Jerusalem specifically for the Christians. The basis and message behind the film is about conscience and morality
FS: Yeah. It’s not a bad thing, the message, I just thought it was simplistically presented
FS: Is there not any other films that explore the message better? I can’t think of one, so maybe it’s this or nothing
YA: Not in the western media that I can think of. I was hoping it could have been delivered better and have universal acclaim
FS: It is a shame that a film making these points was so weak and boring.
YA: Sum up, bruv
FS: Despite a good performance from Ed Norton, and decent ones from Eva Green and Jeremy Irons, and despite the technical aspects of the film being very impressive, watching this for three hours was a struggle. The story didn’t engage me, the majority of the big-name cast are poor and Orlando Bloom shows he is woefully ill-equipped to carry a film, especially one of such ambitious scope. A strong central performance might have held the dull, plodding narrative together. My main problem with ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is that I found it boring. At the very least a film should hold your attention, but there were times where I lost the thread of the plot as my mind wandered to other things. Sadly, the film’s moral message that meant so much to you is lost because of this. Ridley Scott obviously felt that by having a rising star supported by a strong cast he could make another ‘Gladiator‘, and at the same time make a serious point about religious conflict. What he ended up with was a dull addition to his roster of inconsistency. I really didn’t enjoy it at all so it gets 3/10. One for Norton and two for the technical achievement
YA: (laughs) Oh dear!
FS: It’s the worst film I’ve seen since the remake of ‘Sleuth‘
Look out for part two of this week’s ‘Film Club’ later this week