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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Eddie Redmayne
Sean Bean
Carice van Houten
John Lynch.
Directors
Chris Smith.
Screenwriters
Running Time
101 minutes

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Black Death
Horror and dark doings during the bubonic plague


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Plot
With the bubonic plague ravaging medieval England, rookie monk Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) joins a ragtag group of Satanist-hunting mercenaries to investigate an isolated community which is suspiciously bubo-free.


Review
Black Death
Given that fear of religious fundamentalism and flu pandemics are among the most popular manifestations of modern paranoia, Chris ‘Severance’ Smith’s Black Death boasts some degree of topicality. And, with the likes of The Name Of The Rose, The Navigator, Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man as almost certain influences, it’s also ripe with grimey promise. Yet, despite a promising men-on-a-medieval-mission set up, its themes and inspirations never coalesce.

A key problem is the absence of a decent protagonist. As the faith-questioning monk, Eddie Redmayne is little more than a lip-wobbling wet fish; as the dark-intentioned, Godfearing mercenary sent to investigate a suspiciously plague-free village, Sean Bean fails to rise about dour scowls. Motivations are murky, but not in a good way: are we supposed to sympathise with the villagers, whose 14th-century Summerisle-lite community does (of course) harbour a dark secret? Sadly, come the surprisingly restrained torture scenes and badly executed twists, you’ll struggle to care.


Verdict
An encouraging set-up soon descends into a grubby muddle, leaving you wishing you were just rewatching The Name Of The Rose instead.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Black Death
Empire Star Rating

RE: Black Death

Black Death (2010) Totally bleak and very realistic, this historical story set in the time of the bubonic plague which really is quite depressing. The plot is of course religion based and see's a group of warriors and a young monk off to a small village untouched by plague. The reason? because they think a witch is there and keeping the plague out, which would seem beneficial really but that's not Christian damn it. Sean Bean heads a good character driven cast (including Tim McInnerny... More

Posted by Phubbs at 04:39, 01 August 2012 | Report This Post


Black Death

I disagree with your 2 star rating. This is in my Top 10 Films ever and it features one of my favourite actors, Sean Bean. The movie is set during the Plague in England. It is an interesting topic to make a film out of and what we get is a horrific story of warriors searching for the necromancer to end the plague. A young monk takes them, only because he is looking for his girlfriend who he sent away from the plague's wrath. There is a great fight scene in the forest, resulting in bloodshed ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by roaddoGGaliG at 11:01, 01 December 2011 | Report This Post


Two stars - you kidding?

The reviewer got this one wrong as Black Death is a great little horror film about witchhunting and is suitable very grim, bleak and quite a haunting film. Sean Bean is the lead star but Eddie Redmayne & John Lynch were both great in this and this film can hold it's head up high alongside Witchfinder General as a twisty, unusual film with good acting, a super script and Christopher Smith is fast becoming a director to look out for who gets better with every film. Christian Henson's score was b... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Big Braveheart at 23:54, 28 November 2011 | Report This Post


Black Death

Saw this the other week and found it very choppy, especially the first half. I also found myself pulled out of the film a few times when characters seemed to speak with modern day dialogue. My biggest gripe however was the relish the filmmakers seemed to take towards the violence. I understand violence and brutality was common during this time period but it felt like the director and editor were more interested in getting to the killing and torture over everything else, leaving no time to ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Tech_Noir at 16:11, 11 November 2011 | Report This Post


UNDERATED

A very enjoyable film that I feel has been unfairly scuppered by the reviewer. Is there any way the star rating can be changed? Googling other reviews online shows the film was received well by others, i.e. the Guardian (4*) Telegraph (4*) Time Out (4*). 3 stars would be fair, but two?? That's ridiculous, it puts this film on par with Battlefield Earth and that is deeply, deeply unfair. Clearly a Dan Jolin hatchet job. Empire sort it out. Everyone else, watch the film and judge for yourself. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by escobar at 10:39, 10 February 2011 | Report This Post


Deserves More

I'm a quite a fan of medieval movies as a sub genre and thought that this was certainly one of the better ones I've seen - generally it's getting good responses from people here and over at some of the meta-review sites. If you have to choose between this and 'Season of the witch' choose this for sure - gritty, good story, plays with ideas of belief, faith and credulity in what I thought was an very interesting way. Underated by the Empire reviewer. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mooncalf at 13:37, 11 January 2011 | Report This Post


It died a Death

I was quite looking forward to this, like I was with the other historical romp of 2010 Centurion. As it was, I was left feeling slightly disappointed. Sometimes, low-budget films are exposed to the full glare of the limelight and shown up for what they are- disapoointing. This is one of them. I like Sean Bean- one of my favourite actors- but he is given very little to work with here. The script is cliche-ridden and as a result it makes the film stutter. i'm not sure about McInnery's character ei... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Boromirs Redemption at 11:49, 05 January 2011 | Report This Post


Fair. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by reminn at 16:10, 17 December 2010 | Report This Post


A Plague Upon You!

And so it came to pass in the year of our lord 2010 that the readers of 'Empire' took issue with the great god that is the film critic and declared him a heretic! Have to agree with the readers - a superbly recreated medieval England and an intelligent script that highlights (but doesn't preach) the dangers of religious extremism. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by vipey at 08:23, 26 October 2010 | Report This Post


Grim But Very Good.

I'm surprised that Empire didn't like Black Death. I watched it last night, I may not be a expert as a film critic but I found this film better than some other films that are so overhyped. A grim outlook, good pefomances and excellent scenery it's a movie to check out without doubt. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 09:30, 03 October 2010 | Report This Post


Grim But Very Good.

I'm surprised that Empire didn't like Black Death. I watched it last night, I may not be a expert as a film critic but I found this film better than some other films that are so overhyped. A grim outlook, good pefomances and excellent scenery it's a movie to check out without doubt. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 09:30, 03 October 2010 | Report This Post


The Empires revier

Come on please, this film isnt a world wide hit but it does have some origionality and to top it off this film also great scenery, I myself do not beleive that this film was rated worser than valhalla rising!!?? feck me im a movie buff give me a film an ill look into all aspects of everyones films like then decide if its good not just my own................. rather than read about some critic that dont like rom coms or thrillers or etc etc etc which is what seems to be happening right now in th... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Tha_Bishop at 10:01, 12 August 2010 | Report This Post


Pitch black, spot on

Fantastic movie, gripping from start to finish. One of the best of the year. Challenges lots of perceptions, religion in particular gets it in the teeth. Brilliantly cast, and a real welcome black sense of humour in parts. SPOILOR ALERT: would be 5 stars, except the Black Book actress didn't get nakeded. Dan Jolin go back to the f$cking valley, man... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BatSpider at 16:40, 10 July 2010 | Report This Post


IT'S WORTH A LOOK......

The only really negative aspect about this film was that I had to drag my lazy carcass down to London to see it as it wasn't showing locally - other than that I kind of liked it. Plenty of religious references and the dark, grubby, murky atmosphere of the first half gives way to a strange Wickerman/Witchfinder General climax that kept me watching. Wasn't quite sure how this was all going to end and that's what I enjoyed about it. Sean Bean is always good value for money and the rest of the no na... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 12:35, 19 June 2010 | Report This Post


Dan Jolin is wrong

Went to see this last night, didn't expect much based on Severance but that could be me hating Danny Dyer more than anything else. It's a great film, I can't remember enjoying such a great group of actors in one film. I really got an understanding of each character's motivation for doing what they do. Yes the main character is weak jawed and wet but this is surely to contrast with Ulric's grit and misguided way. I think Dan Jolin needs to go back to reviwer school because he really is missing... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Sallyismyname at 21:59, 15 June 2010 | Report This Post


Totally under-rated and mis-marketed, much more thought-provoking than expected!

I really enjoyed this film, and haven't been hugely impressed by Smith's previous work (Severance was OK but Creep and Triangle annoyed the hell out of me). It's definitely borrowed ideas from other films (Blood On Satan's Claw as well as those mentioned above) but I thought it looked and sounded totally stunning, the acting was great, it had interesting situations and ideas and kept me guessing and thinking right to the end. It's more like The Proposition or Aussie prisoners-turn-cannibal grim-... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TKK Silvergun at 15:02, 15 June 2010 | Report This Post


Dark, gritty and sinister, not one to miss!

Rarely do i bring myself to write a review, generally because i tend to agree with the general consensus. But in this case Dan Jolin's review is so off the mark it is unreal. I went in to see the film on saturday after reading some pretty dire reviews and came out wondering if i had actually seen the same film. Its very dark and gritty in a "In the name of the rose" vain, well acted especially from redmayne and tells a compelling story which i certainly felt kept me bolted to the seat ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Harthacnut at 00:20, 15 June 2010 | Report This Post


Better than you think Empire

I agree with the last post, Dan Jolin isn't reviewing the film he's making rubbish comparisons because he doesn't have anything better to say. I've not liked any of the other films by this director apart from thinking they all look well made but this really is a good film. The cast is excellent, it's shot beautifully and the final Godfather style end is a real shock. Empire does seem to have an agenda that involves praising big money populist crap and saving bitchy comments for films that they c... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by petrajones at 22:27, 14 June 2010 | Report This Post


Dan Jolin has another shocker

I've been a reader of Empire for a very long time now but of late I've become a little disappointed by too many review like this one. Dan Jolin chooses to make silly comparative lists based on superficial similarities and misses similarities to the Godfather, Aguirre Wrath of God and The Deerhunter. It's not a perfect film but surely the great performances by Johnny Harris and John Lynch are worth mentioning? Jolin's isn't a review, it's a smug self congratulatory excuse to make snide little jok... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by elvis1977 at 20:03, 14 June 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Black Death

A mixed bag of reviews online, the public seem to like it so far. I'm not sure if this is going to be one for the cinema or tv! ... More

Posted by MarcE at 16:01, 14 June 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Black Death

i not read this review can you post it here,so that i read it. ... More

Posted by jeryjons at 12:15, 14 June 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Black Death

Started well with plague, witch burnings and heresy and then descends into a confusing faith vs fake witchcraft and how people are better off without faith....or are they? I don't know, it was very muddled towards the end. All I know is I was expecting Sean Bean's Ulric to be much more of a raving fundamentalist then he was. 2.5/5 ... More

Posted by Timon at 09:58, 14 June 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Re Black Death

The latest offering from the talented Christopher Smith, isn't perhaps quite as impressive as his last movie Triangle, but it's still a fairly unusual medieval drama which is admittedly not too promising at first.  It appears to be kind of a Middle Ages men-on-a-mission movie, and despite the setting, a convincingly grubby and probably realistic vision of the period, it's not too involving and perhaps a little too draggy for the type of movie it seems to be.  Things don't really impro... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 22:15, 13 June 2010 | Report This Post


Re Black Death

Don't be put off by Empire's review. As has been pointed out, they are among barely a handful of poor reviews in a sea of great ones. I saw this at a free screening in London a couple of weeks ago and loved it. It can't really be put into any specific category. It is not a conventional horror film but it is dark and violent and beautiful to look at. It also makes you think and touches on religious fundamentalism and superstitious fear, both subjects relevant today. Sean Bean and Eddie Redm... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by romulus at 14:34, 10 June 2010 | Report This Post


Great Film!!!!

I don't get this review ... More

Posted by jonnyjay at 10:50, 10 June 2010 | Report This Post


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