review for Ivanhoe on AllMovie

Ivanhoe (1997)
by Mike Cummings review

This adaptation of the classic Sir Walter Scott novel presents 12th century England in all of its chivalric glory, intrigue, and violence. Viewers who relish the whiz of arrows and the clang of swords will enjoy this five-hour romp through the age of castles and kings. The acting is strong, in particular the performances of James Cosmo as Ivanhoe's father, Cedric; Susan Lynch as the exotically beautiful Jewish healer Rebecca; Ciarán Hinds as Brian de Bois-Guilbert, the arch villain bewitched by Rebecca; and Sian Phillips as Eleanor of Aquitaine, the mother of King Richard (Rory Edwards) and Prince John (Ralph Brown). Filmed on the North York moors, and at five dimly lit castles in England and Scotland, the five-hour miniseries captures the aura of the age in every way, but of course the story is heavily romanticized. The combat scenes are realistic, although, for the most part, the production spares the viewer the gore of lopped limbs. The script, in modern British English, leaves little room for character development. For example, Prince John and Lucas de Beaumanoir (Christopher Lee) remain unflinchingly sinister throughout the film while Ivanhoe and Rebecca remain noble and pure of heart. But such flat characters are to be expected in films of action and adventure, and this production has plenty of both: swordplay, jousts, narrow-escapes, and last-minute rescues by Robin Hood (Aden Gillett) and Richard the Lion-Hearted. The only other major flaw in the film is the depiction of the Templars, a religious order of warrior knights, as unremittingly corrupt. Still, the film is a wonderful production that deserves more attention than it received when it debuted in Britain and America.