This terrific epic historical drama, directed by Ridley Scott, is set in the 12th century during the Crusader defence of Jerusalem. Orlando Bloom plays Balian de Ibelin, a village blacksmith and the illegitimate son of Godfrey de Ibelin (Liam Neeson), a Crusader knight returned from the Holy Land.
Godfrey persuades Balian that riches await those who go to defend the city and its Christian King Baldwin (Edward Norton) against the attack of Saladin (Ghassan Massoud), who seeks to win the city back for the Muslim faith. Balian, as well as falling for Baldwin sister Sibylla (Eva Green), finds himself a power broker between the two factions, with the fate of the city in his hands.
As he showed with Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, Scott knows how to balance spectacular battle scenes with very human emotions. The characters in Kingdom of Heaven are never ciphers but complex; Balian is no committed Christian but a pragmatist who sees Jerusalem as a prize that need not be defended at all costs, while Saladin is similarly portrayed as a complex warrior, eager for victory but aware of the dilemmas he faces.
Released in 2005, Scott and screenwriter William Monahan stick closely to the historical facts, basing most of the chief protagonists on historical figures. And while Bloom isn't totally convincing in the lead role, this is offset by some terrific set-pieces, especially the spectacular siege of Jerusalem.