This cheerfully irreverent period piece might just as well be called A Hard Day's Knight, for all its deliberately anachronistic detail. Writer-director Brian Helgeland previously enjoyed Oscar winning success as screenwriter of "LA Confidential" and had a much publicised falling out over his directorial debut "Payback". He seems happier here, successfully treading a fine line as he captures a sense of the physical realities of the 14th century, while also making the story accessible to the modern audience.
Heath Ledger is excellent as William Thatcher, graduating to a lead role after serving a promising apprenticeship in "The Patriot". William's unlikely ambition is to take part in the joust, but the custom of the day prohibits such a thing due to his lowly birth.
However, William is determined to break the mould and with the grudging co-operation of his loyal friends, he becomes a sensational success across Europe. Naturally, his adventures involve a good deal of jousting, the love of a fair maiden, and a villainous, black-clad foe (Sewell).
The approach may be highly original, just as the ingredients are familiar but Helgeland has fashioned a delicious new recipe from them. He has also assembled an unexpected rock soundtrack. At one stage, William enters the arena to the crowd chanting "We Will Rock You" and he shakes a leg to David Bowie's "Golden Years". Such memorable moments pepper a bright, entertaining film that wanders off the beaten track and back again, unseating most of its bigger budgeted summer rivals as it does so.
"A Knight's Tale" is released in UK cinemas on Friday 31st August 2001.