VOD film review: A Knight’s Tale
Ivan Radford | On 03, Apr 2021
Director: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Paul Bettany, Rufus Sewell, Shannyn Sossaman
Where to watch A Knight’s Tale online in the UK: Amazon Prime / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Virgin Movies / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store / CHILI
Heath Ledger on a horse. Rufus Sewell as a bad guy. Paul Bettany as a scantily clad Geoffrey Chaucer. A Knight’s Tale has everything you could possibly want from a film. Also, jousting.
The film follows William Thatcher (Heath Ledger), the son of a thatcher who works as a squire for a knight, Sir Ector. When he dies, however, William and his follow squires – Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk) – find themselves with no way to make ends meet, until they hit upon the idea of William pretending to be Sir Ector. A surprise victory later and they decide to keep up the act – stumbling across one Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany) and roping him into forging a patent of nobility so that everyone believes William to be Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein from Gelderland.
They’re a rag-tag bunch, and part of the film’s fun is just seeing them all interact, as they try to act nobly while avoiding Chaucer’s debt collectors. Their ensemble soon expands to include Kate (the scene-stealing Laura Fraser), a female blacksmith sick of being dismissed by male peers, while William wastes no time in making an enemy – Rufus Sewell’s delightfully petty Count Adhemar – and falling for Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossaman), a lady of noble birth who has also won Count Adhemar’s affections.
The result is part underdog sports movie, part Gladiatorial combat, but delivered with a winning sense of humour. Writer-director Brian Helgeland has a wonderful grasp of tone, using modern anachronistic songs – such as Queen’s We Will Rock You – to drive the action sequences with a thrilling momentum, which only makes the laughs hit harder. That playful environment gives the whole cast a chance to enjoy themselves, from Bettany’s gloriously over-the-top Chaucer, who delivers crowd-cheering speeches with aplomb, and Tudyk’s lovably petulant sidekick to Mark Addy’s pitch-perfect friend and mentor. Sossaman sashays through the period conventions with genuine spark – one ballroom scene in which she and William make up a dance on the spot is a delight – while Sewell simmers and sneers with the best of them. Even James Purefoy pops up in a roguish, regal turn.
But this is Heath Ledger’s show, and he plays a blinder, balancing gruff, tough machismo with irresistible charisma. He throws one-liner around with the same energy as he swings a sword, and serves up goofy slapstick with a smile that lights up the room. It’s a pleasure watching him in full heroic flow, and his star power propels the movie forwards at breakneck speed; its runtime is over two hours, but it flies by. The result is an uplifting, feel-good period romp that gallops along with abandon.
A Knight’s Tale is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.