Director: Ridley Scott
Script: Brian Helgeland
Russell Crowe–Robin Longstride
Cate Blanchett–Marion Loxley
Mark Strong–Lord Godfrey
Oscar Isaac–Prince John
As the crusading armies of Richard the Lionheart return home across Europe, the English king is killed in battle. En route to England with the crown, his aide Robin of Loxley is killed in a French ambush led by the English Lord, Godfrey.
Loxley entrusts the crown to archer Robin of Longstride, also requesting that his own sword be returned to his father in Nottingham. Taking the identity of Loxley, Longstride and his fellow archers return to England and ultimately Nottingham, where he encounters Loxley’s widow.
Newly crowned John continues the policy of taxation under Godfrey’s advice and a weakened England heads towards civil war and an invasion by the French.
Reinventing Robin as a humble soldier alienated from those in power, sharing the camaraderie of his fellows and occasionally raising a laugh or two allows Crowe to give a relaxed (too relaxed?) performance closer to Captain Jack Aubrey (Master and Commander-2003) than to Maximus (Gladiator – 2000).
The one scene where we witness Robin and his men stealing from the rich (a church wagon loaded with taxed grain) is the highlight of the film (dark cowls, shaded faces, low bows) and is followed by a marvellous scene of the robbers sowing the famished fields of Nottingham at night.
Blanchett (Marion) is always good and carries the role of a woman left to tend the Loxley estate during hard times well. Indeed turning the maid into a Joan of Arc type figure is one of the film’s surprises.
Each in their forties, I found that age was no problem in portraying the roles for both Blanchett (Marion) and Crowe (Robin). Indeed they provide a warmth and world weariness reminiscent of Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn in the excellent Robin and Marion (1976).
Less successful were the villains. Mark Strong’s Lord Godfrey requires only a black moustache to be Dick Dastardly. Although an assured performance, we never understand why the English lord wishes to betray his country to the French and the character needs this extra dimension.
Likewise, the Sheriff of Nottingham is a lost opportunity, the character is set-up beautifully in his opening scene, but is hardly used thereafter.
King John (Isaac) is portrayed as a spoiled brat too reminiscent of Commodus in Gladiator, whilst we require more background on Anglo-France relations in this period to truly explain the motivations for a French invasion.
It is the portrayal of the French which let the film down, one dimensional they are portrayed almost as looters, pillagers and just plain bad. Disappointing after Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (2005) took time to explore the motivations of all warring parties.
The film is everything we would come to expect from Ridley Scott after successfully recreating Rome and the Crusades in previous films, battle scenes roar and the glimpses of ordinary rural medieval life capture the eye (Marion’s battle helmet and the bandit boy’s wolf masks are highlights).
However, accents are all over the place and constantly changing and covering every part of British Isles.
Robin Hood is a mixed bag with Scott successfully reinventing the character. However, more background is required to explain the motivations of all parties.