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Black Death

1 h 41 min2010X-Ray15
Set during the time of the first outbreak of bubonic plague in England, a young monk is tasked with learning the truth about reports of people being brought back to life, a mission that pulls him toward a village ruler who has made a dark pact with evil forces.
Christopher Smith
Sean BeanEddie RedmayneJohn Lynch
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4.1 out of 5 stars

584 global ratings

  1. 49% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 21% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 20% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 6% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 4% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United Kingdom

coraReviewed in the United Kingdom on 20 February 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Decent Sean Bean Flick
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No, this is not the greatest film ever made, but it's a very decent medieval adventure flick featuring Sean Bean in what I can only describe as a typical Sean Bean role (an enigmatic knight and leader on a mission) alongside Eddie Redmayne as a young novice monk. The action takes place in the 14th century, at the height of the plague epidemic. Redmayne's character is recruited as leader for a gang of traveling knights on a mission to visit a mysterious village not affected by the pestilence and there to find the necromancer who is believed to heal the sick and bring the dead back to life.

When they reach the village they are initially met with hospitality in an arcadian paradise where everything is beautiful and orderly, the people healthy and clean. The viewers are kept guessing what exactly is the secret of the village, if there is witchcraft or necromancy at work, and who has what kind of special powers. It's a dark tale and this is well mirrored in the film's muted greens and greys. Much of the action is shot on location rather than in a studio, which works rather nicely for the medieval setting.

The DVD has subtitles for the hard of hearing and also includes a decent "Bringing Black Death to Life" featurette and a trailer.
2 people found this helpful
C.Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 13 July 2016
3.0 out of 5 stars
Might have worked but ends up fueling the Sean Bean death meme
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The film begins in England in the winter of 1348. A victim is laid out on a table, blood pouring from his armpits gross but accurate. The main character Ulric (Sean Bean) leads a gang of Mercenaries who roam the countryside looking for sinners. Except in their case instead of ten hail Marys and an act of contrition they just kill them. Because what 14th Century Europe needed during the Black Death was more dead people. Killing them quickly wouldn't be fun, so they bring along a portable torture cart. It's sort of like a malignant S&M icecream van covered in spikes. Ulric ropes in the clueless monk Osmund ( Eddie Redmayne) to lead him to the village of his secret girlfriend, Averil. The village has escaped the plague – therefore, Ulric deduces, it must be a den of sorcery. When all they are is a bunch of Cuddly nature worshipping Pagans, who turn out not to be very cuddly as they want to sacrifice Sean Bean and his chums a bit like the Wickerman but without the folk music and Chrispher Lee camping it up. (Spoiler) Sean Bean gets killed like in almost every film he has been in and frankly everyone would have been disappointed if he wasn’t. Still, he does it with style I know some people would give their right arm for a role but Sean gives his left too and I bet he went to the pub for a drink afterward.
Black Death approaches the height of its silliness when a witch fakes Averill's death with poison, then revives her as a zombie. This is where the film gets uneven and a bit silly. A Mercenary tells a tale of 128 witches burned up North. Aye the North remembers! But as witches were not systematically hunted in 14th-century England except in cases of murder or treason but then historical accuracy is not a moot point in this film. Witchcraft was rarely taken seriously by English courts before the 16th century. So the premise that the Black Death started the Witch hunting craze is wrong by over 200 years. Nevertheless, it's all been a bit much for Osmund. He ends up galloping round the country burning random women at the stake to make himself feel better 300 years early as it becomes the Witch finder General.
In conclusion the turning Black Death into an action movie might have worked. However, it ended up running out of plot and then ripped off other films. If anything this film just served the Sean Bean dying meme as he is dispatched to the sweet hereafter but not without infecting the villagers with the plague. As for the Extras – the making of feature when one of the cast members describes Sean Bean with the phrase "I've never seen a man so clearly built to ride a horse". Then the making of just descends into a good five minutes of everyone talking about how brilliant Sean Bean is. Now THAT is a DVD extra.
4 people found this helpful
James WellsReviewed in the United Kingdom on 30 October 2019
3.0 out of 5 stars
Too much superstition
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Sean Bean gives a powerful performance as a knight on a mission. The plot starts of reasonably coherently until reaching the village in the marsh. From then onwards the plot slides down into superstition. Only towards the conclusion does the plot become a readily understandable story using a modern medical explanation. A great disappointment.
Spike OwenReviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 June 2012
4.0 out of 5 stars
Demons and Necromancers are among us.
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Black Death is directed by Christopher Smith and written by Dario Poloni. It stars Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, John Lynch, Tim McInnerny, Kimberley Nixon, Andy Nyman, Johnny Harris and Carice van Houten. Music is scored by Christian Henson and cinematography by Sebastian Edschmid.

1348, Year of our Lord, the bubonic plague is ravaging Europe. When word spreads of an isolated community that is plague free, a gang of Gods' soldiers are tasked with seeking it out under the impression it might be a haven to occult dealings. Guiding the group is rookie monk Osmund (Redmayne), who after falling in love with a young girl is conflicted about his faith. He takes the soldiers' request for a guide as a sign to find his true calling, what he and the soldiers find at the end of their journey, however, has far reaching consequences for them all.

Considering it was a limited release in theatres it's a little surprising to find so many have sought it out on home format release. What isn't surprising, given its themes, is how it has polarised opinions. Personally I love it, this in spite of director and writer cribbing from notable Brit movies of our past. Yet even when I was in the supposed sanctuary of our home during this latest visit to the film it was met with derision from the lady love of my life! After director Smith (Severance/Triangle/Creep) has well and truly pulled the rug from underneath us to tantalisingly leave things ambiguous, he slots in a coda that muddies things still further, simultaneously infuriating another portion of the movie watching populace. I write this because of two reasons, the first is to obviously intrigue potential first time watchers into taking the plunge and giving it a go, the second is to negate the underselling of the movie by its own director!

Somewhere along the way Smith chose to not sell it as a battle between religion and atheism-Christians against Pagans, but went for the more pleasingly medieval men on a mission aspect, which for the first half of the movie it is. Perhaps those sneaky loans from the revered films that have influenced it weighed heavy on the director post the release and critical appraisals? But undeniably it's the second half that carries the thematic thrust. True enough to say that following a chainmail clad Sean Bean and his grungy band of "mercs" traverse the land, fighting off bandits and the plague along the way, is good formulaic fun, but it's when they happen upon the marshy set village, greeted by a ghostly Carice van Houten and a unnervingly smiley Tim McInnerny, that the film really hits its stride. Thus opening up debates as the battle for Osmund's soul truly begins and we are asked just who are the good and bad guys here?

Filmed out in the forests of Saxony Germany, the film looks terrific in the context of the period it is set. The colours are deliberately stripped back and muted, this plague ravaged land, and persons, demand that to be the case. There's some initial annoyance with the "shaky-cam" formula during the more up-tempo sequences, this is something that is becoming a staple requirement by directors of historical pictures, but Smith thankfully doesn't over do it and achieves good atmospheric realism throughout. It's interesting to note that the Pagan villagers are clean and sprightly, while the Christian soldiers are grimy and grotty, life of the medieval soldier was bloody and bloody dirty work. When the excellent Andy Nyman as Dalywag takes a leak up a tree, he merely wipes his newly whetted hand on his tunic, it's little things like this that keep the film in the realm of realism, an awareness of the time indeed. Cast attack the material with good thespian seriousness, with Lynch and Harris scoring well as polar opposite characters in the supporting ranks of Ulric's (Bean) band of not so merry men.

It's not overly gory, Smith choosing (correctly) to let us at times fill in the blanks in our head, while the fight scenes are very well staged (Bean was very pleased with how they turned out). But ultimately it's the themes in the story and period setting that is of the most interest here. What ever side of the fence you sit on as regards religion, or how you feel about humanity being depicted so coarsely, Black Death will get a reaction out of you. 7.5/10
One person found this helpful
Darth MaciekReviewed in the United Kingdom on 22 June 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
The fight for our immortal souls is more terrible than war and plague - and the fate of the losers is indeed the "Black Death"..
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If you expect exciting medieval adventures and swordfights, this movie is not for you. This film is in fact a story about a trial of faith imposed upon a small group of men in England, in time of possibly the worst cataclysm in history of Europe: the deadly plague of 1348-1352. This horrible epidemic killed 50% of Europe population in only four years (and probably as much as 60% of population of England, Wales and Scotland). There was no cure for the plague in this time and a great majority of people who became ill died - and their death was a horrible and painful one. This epidemic is generally known as "Black Death", but in my personal understanding of the movie, the title does not refer only to the plague (see below).

The story takes place in 1348, somewhere in England (LIMITED SPOILERS FOLLOW). As the plague is killing hundreds of people every day, rumours start to circulate that there is an isolated village in the middle of marshes, which not only is magically protected from the epidemic but in which a necromancer raises the dead from their graves. Later, even worse things are told about this place, tales of blasphemous pagan ceremonies, human sacrifices and even cannibalism. Initially sceptical, local bishop finally dispatches his personal envoy and a group of soldiers to investigate. The movie will follow them as they go towards their destiny...

The personal envoy of the bishop is a noble knight, Ulric (Sean Bean), a grizzled veteran of many wars, who recently lost all his family to the plague and for that reason is in deep mourning. Ulric is a wealthy man, quite educated for a provincial knight (he can read and write and even speaks Latin). He is a natural leader both feared and respected by his men and he is also a devout Christian, but his recent loss brought him to the verge of madness. He accepted this mission in part to keep his sanity by getting busy and forgetting at least partially the death of his wife and children.

Ulric's second in command is Wolfstan (John Lynch), a middle aged man who seems to be a squire who never became a full knight. He is a tough man who makes his living with the sword in hand, but is also well spoken, honourable and good to his word.

The rest of the group is a wild bunch of professional foot soldiers, tough and battle scarred veterans all of them. They served together in France under Edward III and fought in the great battle of Crecy in 1346. Griff (Jamie Ballard) is Wolfstan's best friend and they travelled and campaigned together for years. Swire (Emun Elliott) seems to be the youngest of the group, he is also the most talkative, the most wise-cracking and the only one who seems to really care about his clothes and haircut.

Mold (Johnny Harris) is a rugged peasant who long time ago chose the battle axe other the scythe and never regretted the choice. Ivo (Tygo Germandt) was once captured by the French and later rescued by his companions - but not before his captors cut his tongue... Last but not least there is Dalywag (Andy Nyman), a man who once was a bandit, later became a mercenary and who now works for the bishop as torturer and executioner. At one moment Swire tells about him "he is a torturer and executioner; he is also a thief, a murderer and a defiler of women - but other than that he is really a good man..."

In his quest Ulric needs a guide who knows the local forest and especially the treacherous marshes. Being the personal envoy of the bishop he commandeers for this purpose Osmund, a young monk from a monastery near the marshes. Osmund, who is barely out of his teens, actually is quite eager to go, because he has his own agenda, which will have a considerable influence on the rest of the story...

Once they reach their destination Ulric and his men expect to meet great danger in this isolated village and they will be served beyond their worst expectations! They will be tried and tested in their chair but even more in their faith - and the test will be so horrible that at one moment some of them will be ready to fight for the privilege of being tortured and killed because the alternative will seem too horrible to contemplate! Some will pass the test and some will fail - and in both cases there will be surprises...

In my personal opinion to better understand the second part of the movie (the trial of faith) it is important to remember some fragments from the Bible. You should ponder the First Commandment, the story about Jesus being tempted by the Devil in the wilderness, the fragment which describes how Judas died and the passage of New Testament about the false prophets. It is also important to remember that one of the names of Satan is "The Prince of Lies"...

The Devil being present in every place and time where and when even a single human being lives, he is also very much present in this village. Unusual (at least for XIV century England) customs observed by the villagers and especially by their leader will allow the Prince of Lies to have some very special fun with the newcomers. The terrible trial of faith to which Ulric and his men will be submitted will decide if they save their souls or if they are damned and can be claimed by Satan.

Now, Satan is of course interested in every human soul and tries to attract toward damnation as many people as he can, without ever giving up on anybody until his/her very last breath, but some are obviously more interesting than others. Ulric is so horribly damaged by his recent loss and in so much pain, that he is nothing more than a burned out wrecked empty hulk of a man he once was. His men all spend their lives killing, plundering and committing all other deadly sins - and with the possible exception of Wolfstan they are already more or less damned anyway. So dragging them to hell seems to not be much of a challenge for the Devil, but rather just a routine chore, necessary and useful but uninspiring, like repainting the outhouse...

But with Osmund, this is a whole different story. He is very young (probably around 18), he is gentle and peaceful by nature and being an orphan he lived all his life protected by friendly monks and under tender care of the old abbot who raised him almost as a son he never had. Even if he is a sinner, as all men, the sheltered existence he led preserved him from most of the worst aspects of life - and therefore his soul is mostly innocent and pure. For the Devil, Osmund is the top prize in the game he sets and capturing this soul would be in devilish works the equivalent of painting the Sistine Chapel. It is also quite frequent that the purer the person before he/she turns bad, the worse will be evil he/she visits on the world. For all those reasons Osmund will be tried, tested and tempted in the worst possible way, with indeed devilish cunning and sadistic cruelty.

But who gambles, takes the chance of loosing, no matter how loaded are the dice. And for that reason the final result will not be entirely satisfying for the Devil - although in my modest opinion he will still end ahead of the game... Ultimately, some of "heroes" will live and keep their chances to earn their salvation before their time comes. Some will die but save their souls. And some, be they dead or alive, will be claimed by the Devil and therefore suffer the real "Black Death"...

I found this movie devilishly clever and surprisingly good and I encourage everybody to watch it at least once and decide if it is worthy or if it should be sentenced to the purgatory of charity sale or even the damnation of garbage bin. Enjoy!
2 people found this helpful
S J BuckReviewed in the United Kingdom on 05 December 2012
3.0 out of 5 stars
Well worth a look
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I watched this expecting nothing and was pleasantly surprised to find a rather well thought out movie, that takes its style from films like Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man. High praise indeed. Sure in the end it isn't up there with those two classics but it is well worth seeing.

In 1348 the black death is a plague that is spreading throughout the land. Sean Bean leads a team who are sent to investigate a village that seems to be unaffected by the plague. The reasons for this unfold as the film progresses and all is not quite what it seems when they first arrive. A good cast including Tim McInnerny (BlackAdder) all give good performances

The film is quite violent, but the violence always seemed in context to me, and never felt out of place for the era that the film was set in. But it is only a film, and it makes no claims to have any historical accuracy, so take no notice of those out there complaining that the swords were the wrong shape and that sort of thing.

This is the sort of film that Hammer might have made in the 60s or early 70s, and that combined with it being available very cheap make it a little bit of a bargain.
2 people found this helpful
StotzyReviewed in the United Kingdom on 12 July 2014
4.0 out of 5 stars
Journey Into Darkness
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This is a down and dirty, low budget, British/German co-production that demands to be seen! If you're a fan of movies that take you into some dark and unpleasant places, without resorting to relentless gore, then you must buy this! The cast are excellent; the few fight scenes are visceral and exciting; the setting is suitably grim and the soundtrack is superb! It's also less than a fiver! Nuff said!

Additional: Cast includes; Sean Bean, who may or may not die in this; David Warner, who's always worth watching; Carice Van Houten, who is more famous now for 'Game Of Thrones;' and Eddie Redmayne, who has since gone on to win an Oscar. Just thought you'd like to know.
2 people found this helpful
Moray GreigReviewed in the United Kingdom on 05 February 2011
4.0 out of 5 stars
Very interesting but disturbing movie - worth watching
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I wont go into detail in reviewing this movie. All I will say is that it is worth watching because it is certainly worth watching once, especially if you are interested in the ambiguity of good and evil.

I say this, because from a certain point of view it is not obvious who is good and who is evil in this movie. As the movie gets to it's business end some people will sympathise with one faction, some will sypmathise with the other, and many like me will sympathise with neither.

In this movie, everyone thinks they are in the right. But everyone shows themselves to be brutal, selfish and weak in one way or another.

It is definately not a feel good movie. And for that reason I agree with the recent reviewer, Sigmund, who says it is worth renting rather than buying, at least from my point of view. But for the those who like a bit a bit of duality and ambiguity, and a lot of darkness, in their movies, I would certainly consider watching this.

I was amazed how much the movie kept my attention, despite the dark nature of the movie.
2 people found this helpful
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