Thursday, February 09, 2006

Kingdom of Heaven

I had this movie for a few weeks before finally getting around to watching it. Kingdom of Heaven is set during the Crusades and follows the story of Balian of Ibelin (Orlando Bloom), who's wife recently committed suicide out of despair for the child they lost. Balian is lured into the Crusades for two reasons: he believes he can save her soul by participating, and he finds out he is the illegitimate son of a minor noblemen Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson), who just returned from the East and reveals himself.

When Balian arrives in Jerusalem, he finds a fragile peace between factions of Christians, led by King Baldwin (Edward Norton), and Muslims, led by Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). Unrest breaks out occasionally, ostensibly over the holy city of Jerusalem. The truth, which the movie does a great job of portraying, is most the regular people caught up in the wars just want a safe place to live, and the real motives are control over trade routes, property, and wealth. King Baldwin dies from leprosy, and the Christian fanatics led by Guy de Lusignan (Martin Csokas), sieze the throne and immediately set out to destroy the Muslims. They are crushed and it falls to Balian to defend Jerusalem, with help from Tiberias (Jeremy Irons) who was Baldwin's advisor and leader of the Templars.

It is odd to see Balian, a blacksmith by trade, become a strategic genius in defending Jerusalem from Saladin, a brilliant and dignified general. But they hold out long enough against Saladin and negotiates a surrendur that includes safe passage for everyone who wishes to leave.

Balian eventually returns home and begins to rebuild his life. Richard Coeur de Lion passes through Ibelin seeking Balian the defender of Jerusalem, but Balian is weary of fighting and merely says he is a blacksmith.

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