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By MARK TURNER
Nicolas Cage has taken a beating from critics over the past few years. First off due to the number of films he’s made in recent years and secondly because they don’t live up to the standards enforced by critics who are only interested in Oscar-worthy projects for him to star in.
The fact is that being an actor isn’t just about awards; it’s about being employed and working. And Cage always works when he makes a movie no matter what the topic. It’s for this reason that his fans love him and why they won’t be disappointed with SEASON OF THE WITCH.
Cage plays Behmen, a knight involved in the Crusades when the film opens. Along with his trusted friend Felson (Ron Perlman), they pair carve a path through history surviving one battle after the next serving the church as it strived to cut a bloody trail through non-believers. After over 10 years the pair has had enough, questioning whether it is truly in God’s service they are employed or simply that of an organization who wants control over all they can see.
With the death of a young woman on his hands, Behmen and Felson leave and head home.
Problems follow them when they arrive in a small town only to be recognized as deserters. Thrown into a dungeon and waiting trial, they are saved when the Cardinal calls them to see him. Dying of the plague (as are most of the townspeople), he entrusts them with the task of taking a woman accused of being the witch that brought this plague to an abbey where the monks there will hold a trial for her. If found guilty, they will sentence her to death and end the plague.
Accompanying them on this journey is a priest named Debelzaq (Stephen Campbell Moore), another knight named Eckhart (Ulrich Thompson), a guide named Hagamar (Stephen Graham) and an alter boy named Kay (Robert Sheehan). Claire Foy plays “the girl” being transported and supposed a witch. But as their journey moves forward you wonder first if it could even be possible that this woman is a witch or simply a person in the wrong place at the wrong time. It seems the entire blame is a result of her showing up as the plague began, not just in this town but another as well. With little more proof than that one wonders why she was even accused.
But Cage took on the job with one demand, that the trial is a fair one and not just someone killed because of convenience. It’s a job he takes seriously and one that requires him not to just protect his fellow men in arms but the young woman as well, from various beasts along to road to fellow members on his company.
As the film progresses numerous attacks fall upon the travelers. At one time they are witness to shadows once the girl escapes and leads them on a chase that results in the first death of one of the members. Another falls when a group of wild wolves surrounds the group before they can move to safety. And with each attack the viewer is left wondering if the girl is responsible or not, or does it just seem like she’s a witch?
Many have taken to task the end battle of this film that happens in the abbey. I had no problem with it (but won’t reveal it here so as to not ruin your viewing). They found it a let down and more often than not because those who hate it wanted more shots taken at religion. In short they wanted a different movie. I suggest they watch BLACK DEATH, another movie concerning the black plague that did just that (and that I wasn’t a fan of). But for those who like Cage and Perlman as well, you’ll get exactly what you would expect: an enjoyable, entertaining mystery wrapped up in a world of religion and supernatural that keeps you wondering, is she or isn’t she?
The effects are satisfying (especially at the end), the photography is great, even more so since much of the film takes place at night or in darkened areas, the directing is steady and the acting takes what could have been cartoon characters and fills them with life. The movie doesn’t go out of its way to make it seem like hard core reality, instead relying on the story to tell a tale.
If you like Cage in films like GHOST RIDER and DRIVE ANGRY then you’ll find yourself enjoying this film as well. If it’s the more serious Oscar hungry actor you’re looking for them perhaps not. For me, I always want a film to entertain more than anything else and this one does it in spades.
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