Ironclad (film)

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Theatrical poster
Directed by Jonathan English
Produced by
  • Rick Benattar
  • Jonathan English
  • Andrew J. Curtis
Screenplay by
  • Jonathan English
  • Erick Kastel
  • Stephen McDool
Story by Jonathan English
Music by Lorne Balfe
Cinematography David Eggby
Edited by Peter Amundson
  • VIP Medienfonds 4
  • Rising Star
  • Silver Reel
  • Premiere Picture
  • The Wales Creative IP Fund
  • ContentFilm International
  • Molinare
  • Perpetual Media Capital
  • Mythic International Entertainment
Distributed by Warner Bros.
(United Kingdom)
ARC Entertainment
(United States)
Release dates
  • 4 March 2011 (2011-03-04) (United Kingdom)
  • 26 July 2011 (2011-07-26) (United States)
Running time 121 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Germany[3]
Language English
Budget $25 million

Ironclad is a 2011 adventure film[4] directed by Jonathan English. Written by English and Erick Kastel, based on a screenplay by Stephen McDool, the cast includes Paul Giamatti, James Purefoy, Brian Cox, Vladimir Kulich, Mackenzie Crook, Jason Flemyng, Derek Jacobi and Kate Mara.[5] The film chronicles the siege of Rochester Castle by King John in 1215.[5] The film was shot entirely in Wales in 2009, produced on a budget of $25 million.[6]


A prologue describes how the barons of England, aided by the Knights Templar, rebelled against King John in a war that lasted three years and ended with King John signing Magna Carta, a document granting equal rights to all English freemen and reducing the power of the monarchy. Not long afterwards, he breaks his word and begins a bloody campaign of revenge against the barons who humiliated him, commanding an army of Danish mercenaries to whose leader he has promised that the Pope would keep his missionaries out of Denmark.

The abbot Marcus, leading three Templar knights who have taken vows of silence, shelters from a storm at Darnay Castle on his way to Canterbury for pilgrimage. Abbot Marcus speaks with Thomas Marshall, one of the knights and promises he will secure Marshall's release from the Templar Order once they reach Canterbury. The next morning, King John arrives with his Danish army and overruns the castle. John orders Darnay hanged, and Abbot Marcus has his tongue cut out by the Danes when he tries to intervene. Marshall and the two other knights fight the Danes, during which Marshall manages to escape the castle on horseback, carrying the abbot, while the other two knights are slain. The abbot dies of his wounds shortly after, and Marshall breaks his vow of silence to swear that his sacrifice will not be in vain.

Once he has reached Canterbury, Marshall meets with Archbishop Langton, the author of the Magna Carta, and Baron William d'Aubigny, a former soldier turned wool merchant. Langton reveals that the Pope has sided with King John and that he himself is to be excommunicated for writing the Magna Carta. The three men agree that John must be stopped, and that the place to do it is Rochester Castle, a strategically important stronghold that controls the route from southern England.

Aubigny persuades three of his men to join him, including his squire Guy, but a fourth turns down the baron's call to arms. A party of seven finally leaves for Rochester where, on arriving, they discover six of the king's Danish mercenaries have already claimed the castle after the fourth man had betrayed them to the king. Aubigny's party fights and kills the Danish scouts and then claims Rochester Castle in the name of the rebellion, much to the displeasure of Baron Cornhill, its lord. When John's army finally arrives and lays siege to Rochester, the garrison holds fast and manages to beat back the initial Danish assault. In the aftermath, Aubigny offers his men the chance to leave if they wish; none accept.

For the second assault the Danes build a siege tower, but the defenders destroy it with a makeshift trebuchet and the attackers are repulsed again. The King's army holds back and begins to starve the defenders out. The Archbishop is informed that Prince Louis is biding his time in France and negotiating with John, and sets off immediately to expedite affairs. As weeks become months and the hunger and suffering of the castle's occupants increase, Marshall leaves under cover of night and steals food from the Danish camp, making it back just ahead of his pursuers. The defenders' morale is bolstered for the first time in months, and Marshall finally succumbs to the advances of Cornhill's wife Isabel, breaking his Templar vows.

The Danish leader, Tiberius, threatened by John to take the castle or risk the King reneging on their bargain, adopts a different approach in his next assault and manages to sneak a small force of men over the walls before dawn to open the castle gates from within. Guy discovers the infiltrators and sounds the alarm, but it is too late. Tiberius leads the charge into the castle grounds while his Danes slaughter the garrison. During the chaos d'Aubigny is wounded and left behind in the chaos of the retreat. Marshall recovers in time to don his knight's battle armour and charge the Danes on his war-horse, buying time for the survivors to pull back to the keep.

Aubigny is dragged before the King and forced to watch as the hands of two prisoners are chopped off. After a defiant verbal exchange with John, he is subjected to the same fate and then killed by being flung from the makeshift trebuchet against the keep walls. Cornhill tries to surrender but after being stopped, he goes upstairs to his bedroom and hangs himself instead. John's royal engineers then collapse part of the keep after tunneling under its foundations, and the final assault begins.

The last defenders are killed except Guy, Isabel and Marshall, knocked unconscious by rubble from the keep's collapse. Guy goes out to die fighting where he encounters Tiberius and is almost killed until a recovered Marshall intervenes. Tiberius challenges Marshall to single combat, and Marshall triumphs after a long and savage duel. Horns are heard in the distance as the combined English rebel and French army arrives at last, and John and the remaining Danes disperse in panic. Marshall meets Prince Louis and Archbishop Langton at the castle gates; the latter tells him that he is now free of the Templar Order. Acknowledging England's new king with a nod, Marshall rides off with Isabel, while Guy tells his dead baron that "We held".

The epilogue describes King John's death during his retreat and the reconstruction of Rochester Castle, and how it, like the Magna Carta, still stands today.


James Purefoy and Jamie Foreman at a 2011 screening of Ironclad at Rochester Castle


Actress Megan Fox was attached to the film when the film's production company, Mythic, began promoting it to investors at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. Fox left the film and was later replaced by Kate Mara. Due to the decreased amount of credit and financing available in 2009, the budget of the film was reduced and the entire supporting cast was changed, with the exception of actors James Purefoy and Paul Giamatti. Producer Andrew Curtis described the financing of the film as "more complex than a London Underground map" to Variety magazine; the film ended up crediting 18 executive producers.[6]

Principal photography for the film began at Dragon International Film Studios near the village Llanharan in Wales on October 9, 2009. A replica of Rochester Castle was built on the studio complex.[8] Producer Rick Benattar strove to make the film as historically accurate as possible, recreating the historical violent siege of Rochester Castle, and letting viewers experience the battle as if they were there.[9] Ironclad was the largest independent production that has been filmed in Wales,[5] and was among the largest independent films shot in Britain in 2009.

Fictional elements[edit]

The film is only loosely based on reality.[10] William d'Aubigny commanded the garrison but contemporary chroniclers do not agree on how many men that was. Estimates range from 95 to 140 knights supported by crossbowmen, sergeants, and others.[11] John did take the castle, most of the higher nobles being imprisoned or banished; and the French did not arrive in England until some six months after the siege had ended.[12] Characters departing significantly from the historical record include William d'Aubigny who was not an ennobled wool merchant (nor was he tortured and killed in the siege).

19th Century map of Medieval Rochester showing the proximity of the Castle, Cathedral and City

The closing narration explains that this was one of the first victories that the French had that would eventually lead to total victory. However, after John's death in 1216, many of the English rebels preferred a weak English King in the person of nine-year-old Henry III over an experienced French monarch and thus defected to the Royalists' side and the rebellion was defeated by Royalist supporters in 1217.[13]

While the castle itself is depicted realistically, the nearby Norman Cathedral and the City of Rochester itself are completely missing from the location shots. In reality the Cathedral is only a few hundred yards from the castle walls and Rochester has been a substantial settlement since Roman times.

The film's Danes are depicted as pagans when Denmark had been Christianized by that time. Also, King John's mercenaries were mostly Flemish, Provençals and Aquitainians, not Danes.

Thomas Marshal, the main character played by James Purefoy, is based loosely upon medieval knight and statesman William Marshal.


A sequel called Ironclad: Battle for Blood was announced as in development shortly after the film's release.[14] It is directed by Jonathan English and set 1 year after the end of the original film [15] In late 2013 a trailer was released.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ironclad Review
  2. ^ Why is King John the classic villain?
  3. ^ Felperin, Leslie. "Ironclad". Variety. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  4. ^ Buchanan, Jason. "Ironclad". Allmovie. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Woodrow, Emily (October 24, 2009). "Medieval battle scenes in the Valleywood mud". South Wales Echo. Retrieved on October 26, 2009.
  6. ^ a b Dawtrey, Adam (May 7, 2010). "'Ironclad' overcomes finance obstacles". Variety. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Macnab, Geoffrey (October 28, 2009). "Large UK cast lines up alongside Giamatti, Purefoy in Ironclad". Screen Daily. Retrieved on October 29, 2009.
  8. ^ Collins, Peter (October 13, 2009). "Hopes for Valleywood sparked by castle set". South Wales Echo. Retrieved on October 26, 2009.
  9. ^ "Film recreates Rochester castle siege - in Wales". Kent News. November 14, 2009. Retrieved on November 14, 2009.
  10. ^ Clarke, Cath (3 March 2011). "Ironclad – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  11. ^ Brown, Reginald Allen (1969). Rochester Castle. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. pp. 12–13. 
  12. ^ Hume, David (1826). "11". The history of England. Talboys and Wheeler, and William Pickering (orig. James S. Virtue). p. 83. Retrieved 22 August 2011. "he was content to sacrifice, in this barbarous manner, the inferior prisoners only. The captivity of William de Albiney, the best officer among the confederated barons, was an irreparable loss to their cause" 
  13. ^ McGlynn, Sean (1 January 2011). "King John and the French Invasion". BBC History. Retrieved 2012-03-15. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ Ironclad: Battle for Blood (2013) at
  16. ^ IRONCLAD 2 Battle for Blood OFFICIAL TRAILER 2013

External links[edit]