There's no rule against rock anthems from the 1970s in the soundtrack for a movie about a medieval jousting champion, but if you're going to attempt such jarring anachronisms, you'd better establish acceptable ground rules. Writer-director Brian Helgeland does precisely that in A Knight's Tale and pulls off this trick with such giddy aplomb that you can't help but play along (upon witnessing a crowd of peasants at a jousting match, singing and clapping to the beat of Queen's "We Will Rock You," you're either going to love this movie or dismiss it altogether). Other vintage rock hits will follow, but Helgeland--the Oscar®-winning co-writer of L.A. Confidential --handles this ploy with judicious goodwill, in what is an otherwise honest period piece about a peasant named William (Heath Ledger) who rises by grit and determination to the hallowed status of knighthood.
As if the soundtrack weren't audacious enough, Helgeland (recovering from the sour experience of his directorial debut, Payback) casts none other than Geoffrey Chaucer (wonderfully played by Paul Bettany) as William's cohort and match announcer, along with William's pals Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk), and feisty blacksmith Kate (Laura Fraser). Of course there must be a fair maiden, and she is Jocelyn (newcomer Shannyn Sossamon), with whom William falls in love while battling the nefarious Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell) on the European jousting circuit. Add to this an inspiring father-son reunion, Ledger's undeniable charisma, a perfect supporting cast and enough joyful energy to rejuvenate the film's formulaic plot and A Knight's Tale becomes that most pleasant of movie surprises--an unlikely winner that rises up, like its hero, to exceed all expectations. --Jeff Shannon
In the Middle Ages, before television or professional sports, there's only one form of competition to separate the men from the boys: jousting tournaments. William Thatcher (Heath Ledger), a poor and humble squire, has always dreamed of proving himself worthy as a knight in a jousting match. When he gets a lucky chance seeing an opportunity to disguise himself in the identity of a knight William decides to maintain the illusion for as long as possible. He is aided by his friends Wat (Alan Tudyk), Roland (Mark Addy), and Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany), a writer with a knack for forging official papers. Under his new title, Sir Ulrich of Liechtenstein, William wins tournaments and receives monetary awards. However, the only way for William to prove himself as truly noble and win the heart of the beautiful Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon) is to beat all of his enemies, including the arrogant and undefeated Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell), in a series of jousts. Writer-director Brian Helgeland creates a unique blend of rousing adventure, comedy, and modern sensibility in A Knight's Tale, giving a contemporary make-over to the medieval genre with a soundtrack that includes hit songs from Queen, David Bowie, Sly & the Family Stone, and Thin Lizzy.