144 Minutes (Theatrical Cut)
194 Minutes (Director’s Cut)
Orlando Bloom as Balian of Ibelin
Eva Green as Sibylla of Jerusalem
Jeremy Irons as Raymond III of Tripoli (“Tiberias”)
David Thewlis as The Hospitaller
Brendan Gleeson as Raynald of Châtillon (“Reynald”)
Marton Csokas as Guy de Lusignan
Edward Norton as King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem
Michael Sheen as Priest
Liam Neeson as Barisan of Ibelin (“Godfrey”)
Director: Ridley Scott
In the twelfth century, blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) travels to Jerusalem, a city seething with religious wars. He transforms into a defending warrior who saves the city and its people.
I have heard about Kingdom of Heaven for a while, mainly about it being another historical epic from director Ridley Scott. I also heard that it’s one of the most infamous instances where the director’s cut is far better than the theatrical cut, with the latter reportedly removing so many important parts from the film. So I sought out the Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven and I’m prepared to say that it’s one of my all time favourite films from Ridley Scott, which is quite something considering his filmography.
Kingdom of Heaven was a very well-crafted historical epic, it does have fictionalised events but that’s to be expected from most big budget Hollywood historical epics (especially those directed by Ridley Scott). The large scale of this movie is impressive, and the story is grippingly told with high stakes very apparent throughout. It has a complex plot with many well thought out characters and plotlines and with the director’s cut at least, I think it was put together well. On one hand the film is a classic tale about an individual who rises to become something great, but it’s also a movie about the Crusades. I don’t know much about the subject matter but the Crusades sound like a fascinating historical period, so that was interesting to watch. One of the most surprising parts of the movie is that it does a great job at depicting both sides of the fight equally, with Islam and Christianity being represented fairly. It would have been easy to pick one side over the other, but it’s a well balanced telling of both religious sides. It is particularly powerful when you consider this holy war conflict is framed against a post 9/11 backdrop with the film being released 2 years into the Iraq War. And thinking about it, this is probably one of the many reasons why Kingdom of Heaven wasn’t liked by some when it came out. There’s a lot to this movie thematically, especially about hope and redemption, and it has a very humanist view on religion and life in general. The director’s cut includes 45 minutes of extra footage compared to the theatrical cut. I can’t speak for myself about how much the differences matter since I never watched the theatrical cut, but I heard the extended scenes flesh out many of the supporting characters and storylines. As I said before it is a complex and long movie, making it 3 hours long. However I think the runtime was worth it to tell a story of this magnitude. The movie takes its time, it has many subplots it juggles but takes time to develop them and the characters and it really pays off.
Kingdom of Heaven has one of the best casts I’ve seen in a movie and overall there are some strong performances playing well realised characters. The cast includes Michael Sheen, Brendan Gleeson, Eva Green, Marton Csokas and many more. For me the standouts were Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, David Thewlis, Edward Norton (as a character whose face is never seen yet gives a scene stealing performance), and Ghassan Massoud. The one cast member I hadn’t mentioned yet is the actor who plays the lead character, Orlando Bloom. His performance has been criticised by many, potentially partly due to his cut scenes. He definitely pales when put alongside the other actors in the movie and better actors could’ve been cast in his part. However I do think Bloom gives a really good performance, definitely the best I’ve seen from him.
Ridley Scott’s movies are generally impressive on a technical level and Kingdom of Heaven is no exception. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, it’s possibly one of the best looking movies that Scott has made. You really feel the sense of scale with this movie, the production design and costumes are top notch, and get you completely immersed within this time period. As a spectacle it doesn’t disappoint, with some intense battle and action sequences which hold up well today, including the CGI. Finally there’s the great score from Harry Gregson-Williams, which could very well be the best I’ve heard from him.
The Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven is a fantastic historical epic that’s worthy of being placed among the best. The stellar cast are fantastic in their parts, Ridley Scott’s direction is top notch, and the story is complex and with compelling characters. Of course if you are going to watch it, make sure to watch the director’s cut, it’s pretty much universally accepted by everyone who’s watched it as the definitive version of the film.