Black Death is one of those movies I watch entirely because it stars an actor whose career I follow. While I’m interested in historical sword and chainmail movies, any supernatural horror element usually puts me off. However, though the plot hinged on finding the cause of a small village being untouched by plague, it was to me a minor player compared to the greater, more thought provoking insights into devotion, loyalty, faith, and courage. It also provided an uncomfortably clear window into what Dark Ages life was like, and just how brutal battle could be.

Most movies covering all eras depict hand to hand conflict in a stylized way that can make it almost beautiful to watch, poetic and at times balletic. Black Death went for the jugular. As I watched the flash of sword and fierce concentration of self-preservation, light glinting off swinging blades and bits of realistic looking human flesh flying about like ash from a disturbed fire, it was as if the screen were a door and I had inadvertently opened it, waiting one step away from walking into the Dark Ages. At times I held my breath, and I will admit that at times I no longer looked, yet I was mesmerized by the almost too real experience of life and death struggle playing out on a flickering screen in my darkened living room.

In contrast to the less gruesome depictions I’ve seen of such combat, Black Death’s band of truth seekers, hacked, chopped, and gouged their way through a living gauntlet of death on the move. While their world fought for its own collective life against an affliction none truly understood, these men fought a parallel battle against ignorance, cruelty, and pure evil. Zealotry of an ilk that wrapped it up in pious self-righteousness, an enemy that left few weapons in a thinking man’s arsenal.

I applaud all involved for the attention to detail, dedication to a depiction that while it repelled it also enlightened, and the way that somehow even in the face of such brutality the movie left me with a respect for the band of believers bravely seeking a truth they might have better left undisturbed.

Many will see it as violence porn and relish it as such or walk away, but I hope that even those will stop to draw a breath and look beyond the horror of it to the beauty of the cinematography, the acting, directing, writing, and everything else that went into making it a film watching experience that has the ability to make a person think long after it’s over, about things they might not have considered before about our distant past.

The actor who was the reason I watched it? Sean Bean…an incredibly talented man, most gloriously known for his brilliant portrayal of Boromir in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, who is a joy to watch whatever role he plays. He brings a nobility, intelligence, and devotion to his character in Black Death that elevates it far above any one part of its sum.

Black Death Trailer