Ridley Scott's summer-epic take on the Crusades spins the tale of a blacksmith-turned-knight (Orlando Bloom) who journeys to Jerusalem for a rendezvous with destiny. The fate he finds there isn't as an executioner of infidel unbelievers, but rather as a principled uniter who's tough enough to protect the rights of Christians and Muslims alike. The prescription for cooling today's cross-cultural antipathies is as respectable as it is obvious (even if it chafes a bit to realize that, when all is said and done, we're still expected to root for the white European guy). The look is handsome but dark, punctuated by battles that work better in chaotic close-up than in full wide-angle sprawl. Meanwhile, a plot thread about palace intrigue shows how much the movie owes to Scott's previous Gladiator with the crucial difference that the hero of this film isn't motivated by revenge, but the desire to always act as a paragon of virtue. Guess which spectacle was more fun to watch.
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