It’s a Sean Bean boom over here in Kichijoji, with 10 episodes of A Game of Thrones followed up this weekend with the 2010 Sean Bean movie Black Death. In fact, a few weeks ago I watched Red Riding too, where Sean Bean plays an evil paedophile shopping mall developer. He’s always good, is our Sean.
Anyway, so Black Death is a fairly basic story: it’s 1348, and the black death is ravaging Europe. Sean Bean is a holy warrior serving the church, who is leading an expedition to a village that, rumour has it, has managed to avoid the plague through necromancy. On the way he picks up a novice monk, Osmund (essentially the main character) who lived in the forest near the swamp that protects this village; he has his own reasons for wanting to go back there, and offers to lead Bean’s character (Ulrich) and their motley crew of degenerate witch-hunters into the swamp.
Once at the village, of course, things start to go wrong, and the treachery and magic of the villagers leads the group into trouble. Unfortunately, things also went wrong for me, because one of the main characters in the village, supposedly quite a menacing chap, is played by the chap who was Percy in Blackadder. Can you take a necromancer seriously after you’ve seen this? How terribly menacing…
However, if you haven’t seen Percy for four whole seasons of the funniest show ever made, then you can probably appreciate him in this movie, and then the last half of the movie, though a little slow, is still very good, and you get a reasonably disturbing, thriller-style ending to a good story. The movie is generally well-filmed, the plot is simple and straightforward (and thus has no holes), and the exposition is reasonably well done. The setting is quite splendid (Germany in summer, I think) and fits into the gritty/dark/realistic zone of the fantasy spectrum. The acting is a tad wooden at times but generally fine, and although it’s brutal and a bit gory it’s not too disturbing. I found the ending and resolution of the story a little disappointing, and it could have been a little more … decisive, but at least there were no pointless twists. There are no unbelievable monsters to kick the movie off onto a crazy tangent, either, so it’s more psychological thriller than horror. Overall, a reasonably enjoyable movie but nothing outstanding.