List Film

Ironclad (3 stars)

Medieval seige movie starring Paul Giamatti, James Purefoy and Brian Cox


(15) 120min

If you’re partial to a bit of medieval madness, then Jonathan English’s Ironclad has it all. Set in 1215, this bawdy, bloody and brutal history lesson tells of what happened in the months following the creation of the Magna Carta, the seminal document that England’s King John (played here by Paul Giamatti) was forced to sign to uphold the rights of free men.

As the King attempts to renege on the agreement, rebel baron William de Albany (Brian Cox) recruits Templar Thomas Marshall (James Purefoy) and a bunch of misfits (including Jason Flemyng, Jamie Foreman and Mackenzie Crook) to take the strategically positioned Rochester Castle and fend off the King’s hoards. And so Ironclad becomes an Alamo-style backs-to-the-wall tale, lubricated with lashings of boiling oil and set alight by dozens of flaming missiles.

Given the amount of lopped-off limbs, the squeamish among you might want to pass. But then you will miss out on Giamatti on gloriously tyrannical form – his veins and eyes throbbing to comical bursting point. Meanwhile Kate Mara – as a put-upon bride at Rochester – offers much-needed respite from all the filth and dirt. The result may churn the stomach more than tickle the brain, but it’s a rollicking ride all the same.

General release, Fri 4 Mar. See interview with James Purefoy here.


  • 3 stars
  • 2011
  • UK/US
  • 15
  • Directed by: Jonathan English
  • Cast: James Purefoy, Brian Cox, Derek Jacobi, Kate Mara, Paul Giamatti

William de Albany (Cox) and his bunch of misfits hole themselves up in Rochester Castle, under siege from King John (Giamatti on gloriously tyrannical form). Set in 1215, this brutal history lesson examines the months following the creation of the Magna Carta.

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