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Review: Medieval -“Brutal action scenes juxtaposed against pure faith.”

The fingerprints of Game of Thrones are all over this historical drama, filled with as much blood and gore as it can fit in its 2-hour runtime. A celebration of the military commander Jan Žižka from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), it follows his earlier years before the Hussite wars in the 1400s. Directed by Peter Jákl and filmed in the Czech Republic, the film is in English and it is clear that this film was supposed to be an international hit however the complicated political drama and weak characterisation sucks out any interest in the stakes.

The film begins with Lord Boresh, played magnificently by Michael Caine in one of his final on-screen roles, introducing the complicated political structure which has led to violence in Europe. Unfortunately, there isn’t much explaining after this and it soon gets lost who exactly is fighting for what. Rather than focus on making things clear the film focuses on what it knows how to do best, which is move from fight to fight with Jan (Ben Foster) wielding a mace which he will club into anyone’s face. Jan leads a group of mercenaries hired to protect Lord Boresh, but Jan is tasked with kidnapping the fiancé of Rosenberg, a nobleman who rules the lands of the Bohemian Crown. By kidnapping his fiancé Lord Boresh hopes he won’t interfere with the coronation of King Wenceslaus IV. Jan and his (more violent than merry) men kidnap Katherine sparking a series of events.

Medieval seeks to be as faithful to the time period as possible – there are no knights in shining armour. The Game of Thrones approach works well here, as the action leaves many men with broken bones and faces. There is blood galore. There is also some nudity but it always feels unnecessary to the plot. The colour is saturated from each frame to emphasise the bleakness of the age, but it gives the film authenticity and becomes key to demonstrating the importance of faith which becomes a key part of the second half of the film.

Jan and Katherine spend a lot of time discussing faith as they gaze into each other’s eyes. The pair don’t really share much chemistry, not that there is much time for romance. Katherine is kidnapped and counter-kidnapped so many times throughout the film it is hard to keep track. However, Katherine (Sophie Lowe) holds on to her agency and does act independently to save the peasants when she can.

The talented cast includes Matthew Goode and Til Schweiger, but it’s not enough to keep an interest in this complicated story. At times I did wonder if a TV show which gave these characters room to breathe and explain the story would have been better, but this film is concerned with brutal action scenes juxtaposed against pure faith. It’s an unexplored area of history, which struggles to get you invested unless you’re already interested in the medieval era and hand-to-hand combat.

MEDIEVAL will be releasing in cinemas, on digital, and on demand from 28th October.

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