An entertaining, if by-the-numbers, entry to the sword-and-shield genre, Black Death features lots of blood, disease, and the seemingly requisite Sean Bean with flowing locks, grimy beard and noble banter—after his roles in The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and Troy, among others, it’s almost surprising to not find him somewhere in the medieval mix. Anyway, Black Death tells the tale of the deeply religious knight Ulrich (Bean) and the young, naive monk Osmond (Eddie Redmayne): bound together by a common goal, if different motivations, they seek a village supposedly untouched by the deadly bubonic plague, where a fearsome necromancer is rumored to reside. The religious themes are laid on incredibly thickly—subtle, Black Death is not. It puts forth its questions about the power of one’s faith without any pretenses: in a way, you could call Smith’s approach similar to that of a very poor man’s Ingmar Bergman. Like, say, The Seventh Seal, Black Death relies on imagery and lighting to present its allergorical message. Mist, nature, faces in the water; it’s all memorably shot. Obviously, comparing Smith’s film to Bergman’s masterpieces is grossly unfair, but it’s a helpful analogy in terms of directorial approach to the issues (though Black Death is much gorier than anything in Bergman’s canon!). Otherwise, Black Death is pretty by the book—Bean leads a decent, if unspectacular, cast, and Smith’s direction can best be described as competent-but-risk-averse. All in all, this is a solid movie that should appeal to those who like the subject matter, though it won’t inspire anybody that finds the topic dull to reconsider with fresh eyes.

60/100