Loosely inspired by the England documented in 'The Canterbury Tales', 'A Knight's Tale' tells the story of William (Heath Ledger) a young squire with a talent for jousting. When his master dies somewhat prematurely William sets off with his friends, and an unknown writer called Chaucer (Paul Bettany). Chaucer agrees to forge documents that will 'prove' William's status as a knight and hence his eligibility to enter jousting competitions. Romance and fighting soon ensue in this historico-comedy with a contemporary rock soundtrack.
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
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