Thumbs up or thumbs down? Simple. Spoiler free reviews. Keep it simple dummy.
In 13th-century England the rebel barons have forced King John (Paul Giamatti) to put his royal seal to the Magna Carta, upholding the rights of free-men. Yet mere months after of pledging himself to the great charter, the King has assembled a mercenary army on the south coast of England with the intention of bringing the country back under his tyrannical rule. Killing all who previously stood against him.
However in his way stands Rochester castle, a stronghold that is the key to holding the south of England. Knowing its importance the castle has been commandeered by William d’Aubigny (Brian Cox) and a small group of rebels including Thomas Marshall (James Purefoy), a Knight Templar, who will stand against the tyrannical King.
Ironclad stars James Purefoy, best known for portraying Mark Antony in the HBO series Rome, as Thomas Marshall a Knight Templar whose carries a great burden with his past. The film has a surprisingly stellar cast with Paul Giamatti as King John and Brian Cox and William d’Aubigny. Even the smaller roles are played by the likes of Mackenzie Crook (Pirates of the Caribbean), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) and Derek Jacobi (Gladiator) to name a few.
While he film is only loosely based on reality it is rather loose with its historical accuracy. For example William d’Aubigny did indeed commanded the garrison, however he had a lot more man power than suggested here. Instead of 20 men, estimates say he would have had roughly 95 to 140 knights supported by crossbowmen and sergeants amongst others. The characters are depicted significantly different from their real life counter parts as well. There are other examples of inaccuracy I could give you, but those would risk spoiling key plot points. So I’ll leave it at that.
So what do we know so far? It has got a great cast and that it doesn’t mind twisting history a little bit to tell a different story. Nothing really wrong with that, completely harmless in fact. The problem is that they’ve tried to bill this as an incredibly heroic fight against the odds, however it comes of as more unbelievable and impossible rather than impressive.
For your main protagonist the brooding character of Thomas Marshall gets a little boring. Due to his vow of silence we never learn that much about him. Other than being a bad ass fighting machine, he’s actually a little dull. It’s hard to understand what Lady Isabel (Kate Mara) sees in him in the first place to kindle their romantic interest! I was concerned about Paul Giamatti when he first arriveed on screen as King John (mainly because he looks ridiculous!) but he grows into the character of the tyrannical ruler and won me over quickly. He has one scene in particular in which he is fantastic.
Ironclad features a little bit of gore during the battles and the odd torture scene, which depending on your tastes could have you wincing a few times. There’s something about a tongue being cut out that makes me want to curl into a ball and disappear.
In short Ironclad is a historical romp which would have been better sticking to the facts. Despite my complaints there’s nothing really wrong with the film and it doesn’t do any harm. While I wouldn’t recommend you rush out and watch it immediately if it did happen to be on TV or you were looking to fill a few hours on Netflix, you’d have an okay time with it. I’ve watched it twice now and would consider watching it again somewhere down the line, so I guess that speaks volumes.