Medieval (2022) Film Review: Exploring the World of Czech Cinema

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Petr Jákl’s Medieval: A Visually Stunning, But Narratively Complex Historical Epic

A Glimpse into Czech History

In Petr Jákl’s Medieval, the most expensive production in the history of Czech cinema, the life of Czech national hero, Jan Žižka, is vividly brought to the silver screen. Renowned for his military brilliance and his undefeated record in battle, Žižka’s story unfolds in a visually impressive yet narratively underwhelming manner. Drawing inspiration from the Game of Thrones playbook, this historical epic presents a tale of chaos, betrayal, and relentless warfare in Bohemian Europe.

The Turmoil after Emperor Charles IV’s Death

Set in the aftermath of the death of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, the film introduces us to King Wenceslaus, Charles’ successor, who faces treason from his Machiavellian half-brother, King Sigismund. Amidst this power struggle, military leader Jan Žižka becomes entangled in the plotting when he is ordered by Lord Boresh, Wenceslaus’ advisor, to kidnap Lady Catherine, the fiancé of Sigismund’s ally, Henry of Rosenberg. As Jan evades the formidable Torak, whose task is to retrieve Catherine for Sigismund, he must navigate a treacherous path, questioning the trustworthiness of both sides.

An Action-Packed Tale with Intricate Plotting

Medieval opens with a gravelly voiceover from Michael Caine, providing necessary exposition to establish the time period—Italy, 1402—and setting the stage for the violence, tyranny, intrigue, and power that abound throughout the film. However, as the story progresses, it becomes increasingly challenging to keep track of the shifting alliances and endless double-crossings. Characters betray each other, often literally, as they ambush one another, leaving the audience bewildered at times. Unfortunately, amidst the intricacies of Jákl’s plot, the central story is somewhat overshadowed—a cunning usurper plotting against his weaker half-brother for the crown, while a righteous military man leads a stand against their bitter power struggle.

A Historical Tale with Missed Opportunities

While Medieval certainly delivers on the action front, the film falls short in terms of its narrative. It frequently alludes to God’s will and the power of prayer yet fails to allow its characters to delve deeper into religious discussions. The strained relationship between the power-hungry brothers, excellently portrayed by Matthew Goode as the conniving villain, remains underdeveloped and underused. Additionally, the presence of numerous supporting characters, portrayed by a talented ensemble cast of European, British, and American actors, dilutes the impact of the film’s legendary figure. Despite its aim to infuse historical biopic tropes with fresh flair, Medieval truly shines when showcasing Jan Žižka’s exceptional skills on the battlefield.

The Unconventional Brilliance of Jan Žižka

Žižka emerges as an innovative and unorthodox military leader, marked by his undefeated record even after losing an eye. The film portrays him as having an innate grasp of the nuances that determine the outcome of each conflict, using them to his advantage. Ben Foster’s portrayal of Žižka highlights his stoicism, control, and undeniable prowess with a sword. However, the emotional depth of both character and actor is not fully explored, often overshadowed by the relentless swordplay. While the film attempts to emphasize the chemistry between Foster’s character and Catherine, played by Sophie Lowe, as well as poignant moments involving Žižka’s brother Jaroslav, portrayed by William Moseley, these emotional beats are consistently overshadowed by the film’s focus on action.

A Visually Stunning Journey into the Medieval Era

Petr Jákl and cinematographer Jesper Tøffner have crafted a visually stunning film that authentically captures the medieval era. The production design feels practical, immersive, and undeniably expensive, providing an auditory and visual spectacle. Jákl, Tøffner, and foley artist Dominyka Adomaityte excel in bringing the battle scenes to life, with the clashing of swords, the thundering hooves, and the visceral sounds of hand-to-hand combat. The intense, hand-held camera work places the audience right in the heart of the action, effectively showcasing the relentless violence and highlighting the era’s brutal politics, steeped in blood and mud.

Ambitious Yet Lacking Emotional Depth

Narratively convoluted yet visually impressive, Medieval succeeds in delivering the necessary action when recounting the story of a Czech hero known for his unwavering commitment to honor, faith, and justice. Jákl poignantly dedicates the film to “all those who fight for freedom” worldwide. It is an opulent production that immerses viewers in a world of dirt, fire, and bloody battles. However, it misses the mark in terms of emotional depth. While some historical liberties may raise eyebrows, particularly the contrived and somewhat ridiculous lion attack, the film caters to those seeking a more brutal representation of history, reminiscent of Game of Thrones’ violent aspects rather than its dialogue-driven moments.


In conclusion, Petr Jákl’s Medieval impresses with its visually striking cinematography, authentic production design, and intense battle sequences. However, the complex narrative, marred by intricate plotting and a lack of emotional depth, weakens the overall impact of the film. While the focus on Jan Žižka’s military genius shines brightly, it comes at the expense of fully developing other essential aspects of the story. Medieval succeeds as an action-packed historical epic but falls short in delivering a truly immersive and emotionally resonant experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Medieval historically accurate?

While Medieval aims to depict the life of Czech hero Jan Žižka and the turbulent historical period, it does take certain liberties for storytelling purposes. The lion attack, for example, is a fictionalized element that adds dramatic flair to the narrative.

2. How does Medieval compare to Game of Thrones?

Medieval draws inspiration from the Game of Thrones playbook with its emphasis on betrayal, power struggles, and relentless battles. However, it primarily focuses on the brutal aspects of history rather than the intricate dialogue-driven moments of the popular TV series.

3. Is Medieval suitable for a high school audience?

Medieval is suitable for a high school audience, as it provides a glimpse into Czech history and the life of Jan Žižka. However, it contains intense battle scenes and violence, which should be considered in terms of individual viewer sensitivity.

4. How does Ben Foster portray Jan Žižka?

Ben Foster delivers a stoic and controlled performance as Jan Žižka, showcasing the military leader’s exceptional sword skills. However, the emotional depth of the character is not fully explored in the film.

5. What is the release date of Medieval?

Medieval is set to release in UK cinemas, on digital platforms, and on demand on October 28th, 2022.