review for Kingdom of Heaven on AllMovie

Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
by Donald Guarisco review

It's a shame this film had to come after Troy and Alexander because, despite a few flaws, it is far superior to those stabs at modernizing the costume epic. Kingdom of Heaven succeeds where those films fail because it manages to hit the right blend of grandeur and subtlety. As one would expect from a Ridley Scott film, the grandeur comes through in a wealth of period detail, many stunning vistas filmed on location, and a meticulously staged battle scene in the finale. However, what makes Kingdom of Heaven rewarding is its "subtlety" component: William Monahan's script takes great pains to create a multifaceted tale that depicts both sides of the war in an evenhanded fashion and also reminds the viewer of how religion once dominated the lives of most people. It also benefits from subtle performances that counteract the trend of broad overplaying that mars many similar epics: Orlando Bloom believably underplays his role (a big contrast to his matinee-idol prancing in Troy), Eva Green makes a suitably alluring and likeably resilient romantic interest, and Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, and David Thewlis flesh out their smaller roles with a knowing, believably world-weary cynicism. On the downside, the pressure of getting across the storyline in just two and a half hours means the story suffers a few sudden leaps and awkward transitions in its first half (specifically in how Bloom ends up in Jerusalem). However, these kinks get ironed out by the midpoint and the high quality of the film's other aspects helps make up for these flaws. In short, Kingdom of Heaven has its problems but is easily the best of the recent "sword-and-sandal epic" cycle.