After being forced to sign the Magna Carta, King John hires an army of Danish mercenaries to help him regain control of his kingdom. In order to stop him a small band of men take over Rochester Castle and prepare to hold it until help arrives.
Megan fox was originally cast in the female lead but was replaced when the budget was cut due to the banking crisis.
Ironclad is an action adventure siege film set in 13th century England not long after King John has been forced to signed the Magna Carta. It is made by director, writer, producer Jonathan English and involves the themes of gratuitous violence, redemption and religious vows. English worte the story and screenplay as well as directing the film, which boasts a mainly British cast .
The main creative force behind the film was writer, director Jonathan English who wrote the story after visiting the real Rochester Castle one day and hearing the story of how a group of knights held off King John for several weeks while living on horse meat and water. Upon hearing the story, English said that it would make a great film and set about writing the screenplay. English used the screenplay to be the first film made by his ow production company Mythic, set up by himself, a London lawyer-turned-producer Andrew Curtis and an L.A.-based producer Rick Benattar.
King John stands on the cost watching the arrival of a force of Danish mercenaries whom he greets and discusses the deal that has been made. They will help him regain control of his kingdom after his signing of the Magna Carta and he will speak to the pope and see to it that the Christians will stay out of the Danish lands. With the deal struck they head out into the country to exact John's revenge against the Barons who made him sign the document and the Templars who helped them win the war.
While traveling to Canterbury a party of four men seek refuge in a castle town from the weather. Once inside they meet the lord and it is discovered that three of the men are Templar knights that have newly returned from the holy lands and have taken a vow of silence until they reach the bishop in Canterbury. As they prepare to leave the next day King John and his army arrive and quickly take over the castle as the Templars hide to avoid any bloodshed. John meets the lord and after seeing he signed the Magna Carta he has his men hang him in the courtyard. The Templars decide to intercede and the abbot they are with goes to speak to the king, who immediately has his tongue cut out. His friends attack to rescue him and one escapes with the wounded abbot while the other two fight and die to protect their escape.
The abbot dies
The abbot dies not log after and the Templar goes to Canterbury where it is revealed he is Thomas Marshall a warrior of renowned. He tells the archbishop about the king and what he is doing to the signatories of the document and they are about to discuss what to do when they are joined by Baron Albany who intends to stop the king. They all decide that the key to holding him at bay is to ride and cease and hold Rochester Castle as it is the key to the king being able to go anywhere in the whole kingdom. Albany and Marshall then set off to find Albany's loyal men that have fought with him before and trust him with their lives. They recruit two of Albany's men but the third declines to join the group as he thinks it is too dangerous and he does not trust that the French will come to their aid. When leaving the town they free a man in the stocks and recruit him to the cause and leave, picking up the last of the group along the way.
Meanwhile news has reached King John of what they are up to with the man that refused to join them. The King sends six of the best scouts to race ahead and take the castle first while he and the rest of the army marches there. When Albany, Marshal and their men get to the castle they discover the dutch have already arrived. They quickly dispatch the scouts and begin preparing the defense of the castle and explaining to Lord Cornhill and his young wife Lady Isabel that the King is killing all those responsible for the charter. Marshall looks to the defenses and is please with all he finds except the lack of a moat, he then starts getting the men ready and finding positions for them all to help hold the fortress.
The battle rages
The King arrives with his army goes to talk to the defenders. Baron Albany refuses to allow the King to enter and tells him the castle has been ceased in the name of the rebellion. John leaves the castle and orders Captain Tiberius to begin the attack. They charge the castle and mange to scale the walls but with heavy losses and are soon thrown back by the ferocious defenders. Unhappy, John demands they attack again and has his engineers begin work on a siege tower to more easily breech the walls. Seeing the tower quickly being made the defenders began work on their own construction which is a smaller trebuchet. The next day when the attack begins they are able to destroy the siege tower but the suffer their first major casualty. King John decides to starve them out and does not attack again.
As the siege goes on the defenders run out of food and their minds turn to other things, especially Isabel who is trapped in a loveless marriage, and she starts talking to Marshall and the two start having a relationship. With the food situation getting dire, Marshall leaves the castle only to return with food from the enemy camp allowing the men to think about something other than food and raising the spirits of the defenders. King John is enraged and tells Tiberius to take the caslte or he will return home to find his country full converted to Christianity.
The next day things are too quite and when the squire goes to check the other wall he finds the Danish have almost scaled the walls. Battle is joined and the defenders fight well but Albany is wounded and left for dead as the Danish cease the gate house and open the gates forcing the defenders back to keep. Once the defenders are safe in the keep they discover that Albany is still alive and John tortures him in front of the keep before killing him and demanding they open the gates to the keep. The defenders refuse and John turns to another idea.
Tiberius ready for the final fight
The enemy dig a mine under the keep wall and begin lighting fires with pig fat to burn the foundations and bring the walls down. With the walls down the remaining defenders fight valiantly but are picked off one at a time until only Marshall, Isabel and the squire remain alive in the keep. Marshal then fights Tiberius and wins as the French and English army arrives out side forcing John and his army to retreat. With the battle won and John defeated, Marshall leaves the templar order and leaves with Isabel. With the country at war again, King John fights on but dies a year later from dysentery.
Paul Giamatti on set
Mega Fox was originally meant to be the female lead but when the financing of the film changed due to the banking crisis she was replaced by Kate Mara and the whole of the supporting cast was also replaced as well with only Paul Giamatti and James Purefoy remaining from the original cast. The film was first promoted to investors at the Cannes film festival in 2008 but with the change in financing and and the banking crisis it did not go into production until October 2009 in Wales. Producer Andrew Curtis described the financing of the film as "more complex than a London Underground map" to Variety magazine and as a result the film ended up crediting 18 executive producers.
The set in Wales
Principal photography began on 9th October 2009 in Wales where the entire shoot took place. A replica of Rochester castle was built for the film and the director and producer wanted to keep as close to the real events as possible and make a realistic medieval combat film. The biggest problem for the film apart from the financing was that the site where the castle was to be buit was home to a protected newt meaning that they had to be moved by hand before the production could begin or they would be fined £8000 for each newt disturbed. The film was the largest independent production that has been filmed in Wales and was among the largest independent films shot in Britain in 2009 with a budget of £25 million.
The film was release in the UK on 4th March 2011 and was met with mixed reviews. The film currently holds a Metacritic score of 42 and a 44 on Rotten tomatoes.