R for strong violence and
May 6, 2005
Orlando Bloom, Eva Green,
Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons
20th Century Fox
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Kingdom of Heaven
By Elliott Ryan
For many Christians in the church today, the period of
church history known as the Crusades is not a very familiar subject.
After watching Kingdom of Heaven, a new movie directed
by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down)
set during the Crusades, the Crusades won’t be much more
familiar. The movie focuses very little on the events leading
up to and following one battle in that period of war. It also
doesn’t talk a whole lot about the motives (religious and
otherwise) for the nations involved in the Crusade battles.
But the film does an excellent job of telling the story of Muslim
warrior Saladin leading his troops to capture Jerusalem from the
Christian Europeans that controlled it at the time. The Holy Land
is, of course, revered by the followers of all three of the world’s
major religions. But this story is focused on a man finding honor
after entering an environment where war seemed inevitable.
Orlando Bloom stars as a blacksmith named Balian whose wife and
child had both recently died. Balian is united with a father he
never knew who leads him to the Holy City of Jerusalem. Balian
is made a knight by his father (a baron played by Liam Neeson).
After arriving in Jerusalem, he earns the favor of the King who
is dying of leprosy. The King has managed to keep the peace between
the Christian inhabitants of Israel and the Muslims who also wished
to worship in the Promised Land. But some barons were attempting
to destroy that and cause a war with the Muslims, led by Saladin.
The King’s successor ends up being one of these war-mongerers
who was married to Sibylla, princess of Jerusalem (Eva Green).
The new king (Guy de Lusignan played by Marton Csokas) disliked
Balian’s peaceful ways. What Guy may or may not have known
(the story makes this unclear) is that Balian was having an affair
with Sybilla. Discord grows among the Christian barons over whether
or not to pick a fight with the Muslims. Balian attempted to prevent
war from breaking out. But once it had started, Balian sought
to keep the residents of Jerusalem safe during the onslaught on
The battle scenes are very well done, as is a tradition in Ridley
Scott movies. The fights are very realistic looking. The acting
is all high quality as well. Bloom (who is best known for his
role as an elf sidekick in The Lord of the Rings movies
or as a pirate sidekick in Pirates of the Caribbean)
comes into his own as a lead actor.
As is the case with most Hollywood productions based on reality,
this movie takes some liberties with the historical facts. The
main characters of this film were all people who actually existed
in history. But fictional details were added to the story for
creative purposes. For example, Balian’s wife and children
were all living at the time of the Crusades.
Another fictional storyline added in to the movie is the romance
between Balian and Sybilla. Their adulterous relationship never
took place in their real lives. Of course, it only barely takes
place in the movie. The story of their romance is not fleshed
out very well. Only a few brief clips of the movie refer to their
relationship. Obviously, a romance would only be a side story
in a movie about battle. But why create a fictional romance in
a historical epic and then do very little to make viewers care
anything about that story?
Scott has developed a reputation for bloody war movies. This
movie lives up to that reputation. The violence, while painting
a realistic portrait of what battle would have looked like at
the time, may be disturbing for younger viewers. This movie earns
its R rating.
The Passion has shown that Christian audiences may not
mind sitting through a violent, bloody movie if there is a spiritual
message of inspiration. But this movie says very little about
the religions on either side of the battle. In fact, religious
leaders on both sides are made out to be fools. Organized religion
is not painted in a very positive light. The movie does however
contain a moral lesson that people of different nations and religions
should strive for peace. That is as close as this movie comes
More from CBN.com's In-depth look at the Crusades
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