Written and directed by Petr Jákl.
Starring Ben Foster, Sophie Lowe, Til Schweiger, Matthew Goode, Roland Møller, Michael Caine, William Moseley, Karel Roden, Jan Budař, Marek Vašut, Ondřej Vetchý, Vinzenz Kiefer, Magnus Samuelsson, Werner Daehn, Jennifer Armour, Sean Connor Renwick , Roman Šebrle, Alistair Brammer, David Bowles, Christopher Rygh, Guy Roberts, Martin Kavan, Viktor Krištof, Filip Antonio, Aneta Kernová, Romana Jákl Vítová, Denisa Pfauserová, Kevin Bernhardt, Zhang Lang and Václav Jiráček.
The story of 15th-century Czech icon and warlord Jan Zizka, who defeated the armies of the Teutonic Order and the Holy Roman Empire.
Billed as the most expensive Czech film ever made and centered on the mercenary years of future Hussite army leader Jan Žižka, one would assume that writer-director Petr Jákl (based on a story by his father, Kevin Bernhardt, and Petr Bok, based on historical insights from Marek Dobes and Michal Petrus) would choose historical accuracy, going with an accomplished Czech leader to embody this revered soldier in Medieval.
It is also possible that financing has become difficult without an American in the lead role. But regardless of why and how, Ben Foster dons Jan Žižka’s knight armor, completely off the mark with an inconsistent accent (and a poor attempt at it). That’s not to say that this casting decision was never going to work out (take a look at Ben Affleck in last year). the last duelfinding a way to embody that character through slimy debauchery appropriately), but Ben Foster is a blank slate here and, as much as I hate to admit this, my mind actively wandered as I tried to take in the dialogue and story. .
Fortunately, a good portion of this 2+ hour runtime is devoted to barbaric action sequences. While there are too many jump cuts to confuse what’s going on, it’s interesting to watch considering the amount of mutilation and bloody beheading. There’s a degree of authenticity to the pleasing savagery with convincing cabinets of period pieces from 1400 AD (including battle armour) and location shooting in the Czech Republic. If there’s a major problem here, it’s that while Jesper Tøffner’s monochrome photography fits in with the era of war, tyranny, and oppression, the images are aggressively somber in a way that drains any positive anesthetic beyond color. red.
Speaking of the ongoing war, the other half of Medieval involves a lot of political intrigue with the nobleman Rosenberg (Til Schweiger) seizing various lands, clapping his hands against a rather unsuccessful reign of Wenceslaus IV’s Holy Roman Empire. Soon, Jan Žižka finds himself embroiled in what seems like a weak and desperate attempt to imitate Game of Thrones, tasked with kidnapping Rosenberg’s fiancée, Katherine (Sophie Lowe). Given the timing and setting, marriage to Katherine is a key to deciding, which means separating the two causes problems for Rosenberg.
Naturally, Rosenberg fights back and orders the deaths of some of Jan Žižka’s family, turning this into a personal feud. Eventually, Jan Žižka and his mercenaries join a band of rebels seeking to push back the terror of the kingdom. However, the most interesting scenes here (apart from the frequent bloodbaths) allow Katherine to use her voice against both her kidnappers and those who commit horrific atrocities (there’s an especially horrific impalement of a teenager). The problem is that the only direction Petr Jákl has in mind is to develop his and Jan’s dynamic into a cheesy love story as if everything else here isn’t formulaic and loose enough.
Tracking the overall generosity of Medieval, it’s also worth noting that two video games based on this movie are in development. Perhaps this is the rare case where game adaptations are superior to movies. There aren’t many hurdles to clear, and simply hiring a Czech voice actor for the role of Jan Žižka would solve some problems.
Even discounting accent complaints, though, Ben Foster just doesn’t have the requisite intensity that the role demands. He, too, is let down by a script that feels more concerned with warding off clichés and mainstream appeal rather than a winning study of this legendary historical figure. But at least there are many beheadings.
Flashing Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the reviews editor for Flickering Myth. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]