Saturday, August 6, 2011


Sean Bean is awesome, he brings such a visceral presence to everything he does. The latest film I've seen of his, Black Death is no exception.

Set in the midst of the black plague sweeping over Europe, rumors of a village that is free of the affliction set in motion an investigation. Osmund, a monk with his own motivations, offers to lead Ulric (Bean) to the village through the marsh.
He finds out along the way that Ulric isn't on a mercy mission or investigation so much as a witch hunt. Word is that a necromancer leads the village in question. We have a few bizarre intrigues along the way as well as a ambush battle.
There are a number of twists and surprise betrayals but nothing that I as a writer and critic didn't see coming.

In a way I felt the movie couldn't quite make up its mind what it wanted to be. There isn't quite enough action to call it an action movie. I wouldn't call it a horror despite a few thrilling moments and the dichotomy of the Christians as liars, fanatical and harsh was held against the pagans who were equally so-the biggest surprise for me was that at first I was expecting the message to be how much better the pagan way of life was-but it wasn't-they were cruel, fanatical liars too.

Maybe the filmakers wanted us to come up with our own answers on WHY- not unlike my recent review of The Bridge if San Luis Rey except this would be more akin to why do bad things happen to bad people than the latter? The ending especially makes you wonder.

Where the movie wins is its realistic portrayal of the grim plague afflicted land. The chaos and brutality of an age on the cusp of enlightenment...but not yet.

IF BLACK DEATH and SEASON OF THE WITCH could have been merged, say eliminate Nick Cage altogether and replace him with Bean = teamed with Perlman, and find that balance between two vaguely similar story lines we could have had a classic. Instead this is just all right - worth a watch once IF you already thought maybe this was a movie for you.


Bruce Durham said...

Coincidence or not. I just picked up this and Centurion today in the previously viewed bin.

David J. West said...

Bruce-I liked Centurion better. Let me know what you think.

Lagomorph Rex said...

Following from my amazement on facebook that this was out.. I got to thinking.

Seems I remember reading some where that this film was part of the reason why Season of the Witch got delayed so massively and had to have all the re-shoots. Apparently they were even more similar at one point, and they opted to differentiate it more.

Still, even if neither of them are fantastic.. I'll take em.. I don't turn my nose up at Medieval anything.

David J. West said...

I'm sure not trying to say turn your nose up at it Lagomorph-just that it left somethings to be desired.

Definetely watch it and make up your own mind. IT is worth seeing, it just may not become a favorite.

Charles Gramlich said...

Haven't seen it but will definitely give it a try.

Mikeyboy said... let me get my ducks in a row.
13 Assassins
Black Death
and...for the helluvit the EAGLE with Channing Tatum ( who you don't like ) That's a lot of swords and blood flying around...I can't wait...then I'll go see CONAN! :)

David J. West said...

I think it could appeal to you Charles.

Mikeyboy-exactly. I just saw the Eagle too-I'll post about it next week, and even though I can't stand Channing Tatum it wasn't too bad.

Paul R. McNamee said...

On my shortlist.

Bean is one of those guys that can make darn near anything watchable.

Now that I've read some Sharpe novels, I really want to checkout the t.v. series he did.

B said...

You haven't seen the Sharpe movies yet Paul? I think you're in for a treat. It's true they're done on a budget, but they're a lot of fun. Look for an episode with James Purefoy...

Bruce Durham said...

You haven't seen the Sharpe movies yet Paul? I think you're in for a treat. It's true they're done on a budget, but they're a lot of fun. Look for an episode with James Purefoy...

(Sorry about the double post. For some reason my name didn't come through on the first one)

David J. West said...

Right on Paul, I have yet to see the Sharpe series myself-its on the pile.

That's alright Bruce-let me know what you think of the movie.

Tom Doolan said...

This was one of the grimmest, most depressing movies I had ever seen. Man, was it good! And Bean is amazing. Like Hugo Weaving, I'm convinced there is nothng he can't do as an actor.

David J. West said...

Yeah Tom, I thought so too-definetly something all of us S&S guys ought to watch-even if I don't know when I would sit down to watch it again.

Bruce Durham said...

I was mixed on Black Death. Parts of it were quite good, but parts of it were contrived. Like, if Sean and the boys suspect something was not quite right with the village, why drink the bloody wine? Could see that one coming a mile away. The tacked on ending with Osmund didn't feel right, either, it didn't fit the film. And why oh why does Bean have to die in every blasted movie he makes? (saving the Sharpe films, of course). I doubt I could watch this again. Oh, and in my first post I said I picked up Centurion along with Black Death. I lied. It was Eagle (too many Roman movies coming out lately...)

David J. West said...

That's pretty close to how I felt Bruce-I don't know when I would watch the movie again.

And the Eagle eh?