People’s fascination with the medieval era can be traced to long before George R. R. Martin penned the Westeros odyssey in the now widely popular Game of Thrones series. The many stories surrounding King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table captured people’s imaginations and have been translated into countless films and books. The period offers so many opportunities for tales of love, bravery, allegiance and war. Last Knights are a dying breed whose fierce loyalty knows no limits.
Bartok (Morgan Freeman) is a nobleman who’s earned the commitment of his knights through mutual respect. Having rescued Raiden (Clive Owen) from a dark path in his youth, he now captains the men and is the closest Bartok has come to a son of his own. When a greedy minister (Aksel Hennie) oversteps his authority, Bartok refuses to stand for the injustice and pays dearly for his opposition. Devastated by the condemnation of their master, Raiden’s men plot his revenge.
This is a film that concerns itself with absolute corruption and loyalty. On the one hand, the minister’s depravity spreads through every aspect of the kingdom and almost everyone is afraid to challenge his immorality. He explicitly demands substantial kickbacks from all the nobleman and frequently abuses his wife. The emperor (Peyman Moaadi) tolerates his behaviour as if under a spell similar to the one that compelled Théoden to follow the advice of Grima a.k.a. “Wormtongue” in The Lord of the Rings. Conversely, Raiden’s and his men’s allegiance to Bartok is infinite, each choosing to follow his command and defend him with their lives, exhibiting the true honour of a knight that is no longer widespread amongst those who serve. Unfortunately for Ito (Tsuyoshi Ihara), the same code of honour obliges him to protect his master, the minister.
After Bartok questions the state of affairs, the attention shifts to Raiden’s incomprehensible despair and the efforts of the knights to avenge their master intercut with the minister’s paranoia and widening influence. What this amounts to is a lot of talking and covert business, but not much fighting. In spite of the noticeably reduced pace, it’s mostly bearable even if it does go on for too long. And the audience’s patience is eventually rewarded with an epic battle sequence worthy of a medieval production. Sword-fighting, arrows flying, explosions and far from even odds produce a thrilling ending that redeems most of the film’s other faults.