Who would have thought it? This is a historical romance set in a time period virtually ignored by Hollywood, based on a 12th century narrative. And it's actually good! I wasn't expecting the themes here to be dealt with in such a mature fashion, but it goes to show that films like this can still be made when the right intentions are behind them. The director of this one is Kevin Reynolds, who made the much-maligned ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES, but thankfully Bryan Adams is nowhere in sight this time around. The lack of modern knowledge about this period in history means that there's less scope for historical anachronisms, but they're still here! I can overlook the presence of a Norman-style motte and bailey castle, but to have one character quoting a John Donne poem (written some thousand years after this film is set) is inexcusable. Watch out for the fork at a dinner table as well.
Otherwise, the backdrop looks and feels good, and I was pleased to find that there's action and battle here, including a rousing climax and a tournament that recalls that of GLADIATOR (Ridley Scott served as producer on this). The central love story is slightly mishandled, because we end up losing sympathy for the lead characters, particularly Isolde, whose frequent errors of judgement contribute to the tragic storyline. I didn't particularly care for the casting of Sophie Myles either – her Irish accent is all over the place. Imported American lead James Franco is better as the tough hero, but, as with Costner, there's something that screams 'Hollywood' about him, taking away from his authenticity. The good news is that we get Rufus Sewell playing the third spoke of the love triangle, and he's simply superb as the sympathetic king. Sewell usually gets typecast as the bad guy in Hollywood films, but he plays a fully rounded figure here, and he's the best thing in the film, bringing all his scenes to life. I would say that I wish he'd played the hero, but I think his character is actually much more interesting, so I'm not complaining.
So, as with ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES, despite the anachronisms, this is a thoroughly entertaining movie and one I wouldn't mind watching again. Stunning location photography, romance, battle, conflict, a fine supporting cast and plenty of twists – that's what I want from my historical films!