The Reckoning (2003 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul McGuigan|
|Produced by||Caroline Wood|
|Screenplay by||Mark Mills|
|Based on||Morality Play
by Barry Unsworth
|Music by||Adrian Lee
|Editing by||Andrew Hulme|
M.D.A. Films S.L.
|Distributed by||Columbia TriStar Films
Entertainment Film Distributors
Paramount Pictures Corporation
|Running time||112 min.|
The Reckoning is a 2003 British-Spanish murder mystery drama film directed by Paul McGuigan and starring Paul Bettany, Willem Dafoe, Tom Hardy, Gina McKee, Brian Cox and Vincent Cassel. It was written by Mark Mills and based on the 1995 novel Morality Play by Barry Unsworth. Filming was done on location in Spain, Wales and England.
The story, which is set during the medieval period in England, alludes to the evolution of the theatre arts from what was strictly Biblical morality plays in the period to dramas based on real or non-Biblical fictional subjects.
In 1380 England, a priest (Bettany) called Nicholas leaves his village after being caught in flagrante delicto with a married woman. After hiding in the woods, he is found by a travelling acting troupe who at first think he is a robber. Reluctantly, they allow him to join their group to replace one of their members who has just died. They are forced to travel to a new district after a collapsed bridge stops them taking their normal route. Eventually, the troupe reach a strange town that has a castle (that is under reconstruction). On arrival, the actors find all the townsfolk in the market square to hear a woman sentenced to death for killing a boy. Her conviction is based on the testimony of a Benedictine Monk (Ewen Bremner). Next day, the troupe perform a biblical passion play, but only a few people come to watch and they make very little money.
The group's leader, Martin (Willem Dafoe), then makes the decision to perform a morality play based on the events surrounding the child murder. He and Nicholas visit the condemned woman in the dungeons. Despite her being mute, the men come away with the strong belief she is innocent of the crime. The players perform their play, portraying the woman as a seductress who lured the boy to his death. This interpretation infuriates the child's bereaved parents, who heckle the stage, adding more to the story. Watching from a castle window is the Norman Lord de Guise (Vincent Cassel). The sheriff and his men arrive and clear the square by force.
The acting troupe are told to leave town by first light. However, Nicholas's strong conviction urges the others join him and investigate further the circumstances of the murder but they refuse. That night, the former priest digs up the boy's body only to discover it has been violated before death. While in the graveyard, he meets two men, the King's Justice and his squire, who are carrying out their own investigations. Nicholas is then forced to leave by the town's sheriff. Outside town, Nicholas refuses to continue with the troupe and returns disguised as a monk. Shortly afterwards, Martin relinquishes his role as the group's leader and follows him.
Back in the town, Nicholas enters the church in disguise. He finds the monk who testified at the trial and tells him that he knows the woman is innocent as he knows of the boy's injuries, and this was witnessed by the King's Justices. But the monk reveals he had nothing to do with the death, intimating he is protecting someone else. Nicholas leaves and is found by Martin. The two of them then learn from the King's Justice that the monk has been found dead, and with it, any chance to get evidence concerning his lord and master, de Guise, who they know is planning a revolt to seize the English throne.
It is revealed that the authorities also knew that wherever de Guise goes, boys disappear. Nicholas then obtains more evidence to prove that the woman is not the real killer (the body was found with rigor mortis, which meant the killing was more recent). At the execution, the acting troupe, who have also all returned, seize the scaffold and perform the play again with the new information inciting the crowd against de Guise. Guards are called out of the castle, forcing the actors to flee to the church. But unbeknown to them, de Guise is already there performing an act of penitence.
Nicholas presents the evidence to de Guise who without much coercion admits everything, knowing that he is untouchable under the feudal system. But when Nicholas tells him that the boy he raped and murdered had the plague, he stabs the former priest. As Nicholas stumbles outside the church, de Guise walks back toward his castle through the throng of townsfolk. But when he reaches the gate he finds the portcullis is down, condemning him to be lynched by the mob, and his castle to be burned to the ground.
The acting troupe hold Nicholas in his final death throes. Before leaving for Durham, Martin acknowledges that Nicholas will live on in the new non-Biblical play that they will perform from now on.
- Paul Bettany ... Nicholas
- Willem Dafoe ... Martin
- Brian Cox ... Tobias
- Gina McKee ... Sarah
- Simon McBurney ... Stephen
- Tom Hardy ... Straw
- Stuart Wells ... Springer (as George Wells)
- Vincent Cassel ... Lord De Guise, a character with strong similarities to Gilles de Rais, a real 15th-century serial child killer (who Cassel portrayed in the 1999 film The Messenger)
- Ewen Bremner ... Simon Damian
- Mark Benton ... Sheriff
- Hamish McColl ... Innkeeper
- Matthew Macfadyen ... King's Justice
- Marián Aguilera ... Nicholas' lover
- Trevor Steedman ... The cuckold husband
The film was shot on location in a variety of locations including Almería and Rodalquilar in Andalucía, Spain. Castle interiors were completed at Hedingham Castle, in Essex, England. With additional filming for the travelling sequences shot in mid Wales.
- The Reckoning at the Internet Movie Database
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- The Reckoning at Box Office Mojo