When soldier Robin happens upon the dying Robert of Loxley, he promises to return the man's sword to his family in Nottingham. There, he assumes Robert's identity; romances his widow, Marion; and draws the ire of the town's sheriff and King John's henchman, Godfrey.
On my way to see Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood", I couldn't help but wonder if I had set my expectations so high that it would be impossible for the movie to reach them. After all, this is Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, the same team who brought us "Gladiator" which happens to be one of my all-time favorite films. Could they even come close to matching the strength of their previous Oscar winning period film. The answer is yes, they did come close.
While overall "Robin Hood" isn't as accomplished as "Gladiator", it still does well in the same areas that made "Gladiator" such a strong film. When it comes to making an epic period film few can do it better than Ridley Scott. His amazing attention to detail, extravagant set pieces, and gorgeous cinematography create a believable and immersive 13th century England. From the film's opening sequences to it's incredible finish, the realistic feel and old English atmosphere is done to perfection. Scott also creates some fast-paced, frenzied action sequences. The frantic, gritty camera work and well executed CGI makes the small battles and huge epic scale war sequences feel real and intense.
The film also is strenghtened by the incredible performance of Russell Crowe. Few actors can command the screen like Crowe. He has a presence on film that not only brings strength to his characters but also a genuine humanity. Crowe's Robin Hood is possibly the most human of any of the previous portrayals showing a sad but strong man in the dark about his past and uncertain about his future. Mark Strong gives another great "bad guy" performance and is truly menacing and despicable. Cate Blanchett creates a very different and intriguing Marion while Max von Sydow and William Hurt also give great supporting performances.
"Robin Hood" is an entirely different look at the classic character. It's a prequel that sets itself up for possibly more films. It's incredibly well made with high production value. It's a well written story that may start off slow for some but is actually smart and intelligent and builds itself up to an exciting climax. A great film that shows why Crowe and Scott are one of Hollywood's best combinations.