“Knightfall” follows the Knights Templar, the most powerful, wealthy and mysterious military order of the Middle Ages, entrusted with protecting Christianity’s most prized relic—the Holy Grail—and harboring secrets capable of destroying the Church itself.
Take the Lucas/Spielberg collaboration of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” and combine it with Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven,” and you have a sense of what the A+E Studios’ History new series entitled “Knightfall” is about. An original scripted drama, “Knightfall” chronicles the mysterious but true accounts of the Knights of the Templar, the elite warriors of the Crusades.
Ten episodes have been ordered for the first season and based on the quality of the production, story, and acting, additional episodes are almost certain to follow. Producers Jeremy Renner and Don Handfield have crafted a compelling tale that combines history, political intrigue, lust and ample action sequences to satisfy almost any audience. To further titillate viewers, Renner is expected to make a guest appearance at some point in the series.
If you’re going to dramatize history, A+E’s History approach is a great way to do it. Having recently viewed History’s “The World Wars,” “The Men Who Built America” and “Texas Rising,” “Knightfall” compares favorably and indeed may be superior to all of them.
“Knightfall” opens in the Holy Land in 1291 during the Siege of Acre. The story is set a century after the Battle of Hattin, when the Christians lost Jerusalem to the army of Saladin, depicted so well in “Kingdom of Heaven.” As Acre falls, the Holy Grail is lost, and the tale unfolds. As is often the case in historical dramas such as “Knightfall,” much happens quickly in terms of plot, so repeated viewings will likely be rewarded.
Periodically the action is reminiscent of another Ridley Scott film, “Gladiator.” Even though “Knightfall” seems to touch on themes from many other works, it becomes clear that when enough new elements are presented – as is the case here – one begins to realize that the producers have transcended previous material and created something different.
On a minor technical note, the battle in Acre gives the viewer a taste of what it’s like to engage in warfare atop a galloping horse with lots of dust and limited visibility. Yet during the scene, it seems like the Knights Templar have close-quarter battle headsets. They issue orders and information to each other as if wearing modern combat or football helmets with two-way radios. Still, the effect of being inside a clunky knight’s helmet during the confusion of battle provides an interesting perspective and serves to move the story along smartly, with the remainder chalked off to a bit of artistic license.
“Knightfall” sports a solid cast from a plethora of recent series programming including Tom Cullen and Jim Carter (“Downton Abbey”), Ed Stoppard (“The Crown”), Olivia Ross (“War and Peace”), and a particularly delightful turn by Julian Ovenden (also “Downton Abbey”). As but one example of Ovenden’s sly performance, I have to say that when you find yourself liking the bad guy, that’s always a good sign. One merely has to think back on the roles of the late, great Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber or the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Just one example of the wonderful exchanges Ovenden as William De Nogaret, the unashamedly godless counsel to the King delivers, in this case to Pope Boniface, who is annoyed by the intrusion into his quarters:
“Have you come to confess your sins?” asks the Pope.
De Nogaret replies, “No most Holy One. That could take all year.”
“Knightfall” addresses adult themes and may not be appropriate for young children or religious fundamentalists. However, if you are interested in a chapter of history that continues to capture the imagination of so many, this series makes for a superb viewing experience.
Coming soon to the HISTORY channel