Who's In It: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, David Warner, Carice van Houten, Kimberly Nixon, Tim McInnerny, John Lynch, Andy Nyman
The Basics: Ah, love in the time of the Black Death. Osmond the monk (Eddie Redmayne) is in love with Averill (Kimberly Nixon) but is still clinging to his commitment to God with a tenuous grip. When the plague reaches their town, he hears word of a place that is untouched by the pestilence and begs her to go there, saying he will meet her. At the same time, feisty bishop Ulrich (Sean Bean) says that there is a necromancer keeping that town safe, and they must bring him to justice (because they don't have anything more pressing to deal with, apparently). Osmond leads them to the marsh, walking into brutality and godlessness, and has to choose sides.
What's The Deal: I get what this movie was trying to do. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, who is right, is shedding your humanity for an idea ever the right thing to do, so on and so forth. Set against a very interesting period of time, where there were little resources and a huge problem, the situation is ripe for this kind of conflict (see also: Spanish Inquisition). Everything is in place here, with beautiful cinematography and a talented cast, but ultimately I just sat there kind of waiting for the movie to start. I never got any context from the script as far as character's relationships, so I never felt attached to anyone or really moved by what I thought the movie was trying to say. It was interesting enough, but every time something intriguing was going on, it slipped from the movie's grasp and we left it behind. This movie had a lot of potential, but missed the mark for me, which is almost worse than a film being a complete waste of time.
The Good Stuff: This little village full of non-believers was really spooky. Everyone in it looks like a good old, corn-fed bonny lad or lass, strikingly different from everyone else in the country. There's a great scene where the bishop and his men share their first meal with the town, having lied to them about coming there "just to rest." When everyone is ready to eat, the bishop insists on praying while everyone else in the dining hall awkwardly looks around, rolling their eyes or eyeing their food. It brought a touch of humanity to a very different world--I wish I had seen more of that throughout the film.
And Even Better Stuff: Just when you thought godlessness was passe, Langiva (Carice van Houten) works her necromancing magic and it looks awesome. The best part was, while the ceremony was being held, I couldn't really tell it apart from a baptism in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? A key component of war is each side being confident in how right they are, and it blinds them from seeing how similar they might be to that which they rail against.