I recently watched the 2011 film “Ironclad” starring James Purefoy and Brian Cox. Now I’m a huge medieval history fan and I watched this film with no small amount of apprehension And it is fairly safe to say that this film deviates vastly from what really happened during this period.
The film begins with King John 1st of England signing the Magna Carta but then it continues with a voice over from Charles Dance describing the events that history wants us to forget. This is where the film starts to fall apart somewhat. I am all for unrealistic odds and having the oppressed freeing themselves from the oppressors but I think this film may have stretched it a little too far.
The premise of the film is King John wanting to regain control of his land, with the help of Danish Viking marauders, and destroy what the Magna Carta hoped to achieve. Unfortunately for him he is seen killing a Castellan or Castle Warden by a member of the Knight’s Templar. This member of the Templar races to meet the Archbishop Langton who tells him and Baron d’Aubigny to hold Rochester Castle until help from France arrives. Now this doesn’t seem a too difficult task to achieve until you realise that they want to hold this castle with 6 men and whatever garrison the current castellan already have to offer. I feel that even people who aren’t too bothered about historical accuracy would find that even a little bit too hard to believe and yet the most unbelievable part of the film has not been shown.
The 6 rebels do actually manage to withstand a few attacks from the King’s forces, without any of their own anti-siege weapons i.e burning oil, until the seasons change and summer turns to autumn which turns to winter. Over this time we are to believe that they have survived without any form of provisions. Firstly most castles at the time would have had some food and drinks stored in a larder as the seasons were already changing but if they were facing a siege of this kind they would have been rationing their food from the start. However, they quickly end up living on bits of leather boiled in water until the Templar, Thomas, makes haste for a daring mission to steal some of the King’s food. Once he’s achieved this the others begin feasting and eating what seems like everything that had been stolen. Again, something that wouldn’t have happened as they wouldn’t have been able to eat that much if all they’d been consisting on was some boiled leather in water.
I think the most problematic thing about this film however, is the ending. It ends with Charles Dance saving the final few people left alive and with King John fleeing for his life whilst the French Prince becomes King of England. The only reason that this irks me as much as it does is because there will be some people who watch it and will believe that this really happened. I’m all for people becoming more interested in history and learning about some of the people who lived but I think that films and film companies need to start letting people know whether or not a historical film is accurate or is completely fiction.
Rating: 2.5/5 stars