I have noticed that in the past few weeks, my preoccupation other events (such as revelling in the victory of The Breaks) has meant that the number of movie related posts has been lacking. I know a lot of people who come to my blog because they want to hear about movies.
The Reckoning (2004)
This is one of those films that really sneaked by the mainstream media and the smaller independent crowd as well. I probably wouldn't have discovered it at all if it weren't for the fact that it stars Paul Bettany, who I will watch in just about anything because he is one of the most talented actors working today.
There is a shortage of decent films set in medieval settings, probably a complete dearth of them if you're a real stickler for historical accuracy and such (Caitlin, I'd like to get you or some other history person's impressions on this film). With that in mind, this film is a real treat for fans of medieval settings. Director Paul McGuigan (Ganster No. 1) directs what is essentially a medieval murder mystery, that deals with religion, art, and the justice. It sounds like a lot for a film to deal with, but this film does it admirably. The year is 1380, and a disgraced priest, Nicholas (Bettany), hooks up with Martin (played to perfection by Willem Dafoe) and his troop of actors (including the ever entertaining Brian Cox), they become entangled in a miscarriage of justice while delayed in an out of the way English town. The film plays out like a mystery, but also deals with some issues such as the nature of drama (this is a time when non-Biblical stories weren't common on the stage) and the nature of justice (God's and man's).
While re-watching this film last night I was even more impressed with it than I was the first time. The acting is top notch all the way through (watch for a tiny role by Simon "Shaun of the Dead" Pegg as the jailer), with Bettany and Dafoe playing off each other wonderfully. The ideas in the film seem well developed without hitting you over the head with the themes. And I was happy to realize this is a film about medieval England that doesn't have a single battle sequence or significant fight scene. It utilizes the setting for reasons other than the violence of the era, looking more at the social and religious aspects of the setting. For that alone I give the filmmakers credit, though it may have cost them a mainstream audience. In the end though, I got a lot out of this film and I'm glad I can share it with people.