“The fumes of the dead hung in the air like poison. The plague, more cruel and more pitiless than war, descended upon us. A pestilence, that would leave half of our kingdom dead. Where did it come from? What carried its germ? The priests told us it was God’s punishment. For what sin? What commandment must we break that could earn this? No, we knew the truth. This was not God’s work, but devilry… or witchcraft. But our task, to hunt down a demon, was God’s cure.”

Set in 1348, the 2010 film Black Death, stars Sean Beam as Ulrich, a christian man sent to bring down a village suspected of raising the dead. Along for the ride is young monk Osmond, the central character of the film. We begin with Osmond, questioning his faith. He’s been isolated due to the outbreak throughout the known world of the bubonic plague. Osmond is released as we quickly find that he’s a troubled monk as he’s fallen in love with a young woman. She tells him to meet up with her if he indeed loves her. Osmond asks for a sign from God and soon after we find Bean’s Ulrich and his cast of characters about to set off for a most important assignment. Osmond volunteers to help them and they set off. Not long after introducing each of the characters, Osmond runs off to the spot where he is to meet his lady. He finds her clothing, bloodied, a clear sign that she’s been killed. He also finds a band of men looking to rob and kill. Osmond is able to scramble back to camp and Ulrich and company take out the robbers and soon after, find the village they’ve been searching for.

Once arriving at the village, they are welcomed warmly and told that the pestilence has not reached this village because of how isolated it is. Everything seems normal until a dinner scene where all the men are drugged. Osmond is then shown that these are in fact witches, raising people from the dead, including his lady. Osmond flees this scene only to arrive back at the dinner and find his comrades captured. What follows is a brutal scene of torture where these Christians are given the opportunity to leave free if only they turn their back on God. They refuse, and Ulrich is killed, of course he is, it’s Sean Bean, he’s killed in practically every movie he’s in. Osmond is given the opportunity to see his lady before choosing his path. He sees her in a state he calls purgatory, kills her, and tells the people of this village that he will never turn his back on God. What follows was a clever reveal that the woman in charge of this village, this witch, convinces Osmond that his woman was not dead. Instead she was merely drugged and it’s Osmond that has killed her. Osmond and one other soldier return home and I presumed the end of the film would follow. However, I was glad to see an epilogue to the film depicting a new Osmond. A man who is no longer serving God as a monk, instead he uses the actions of Ulrich to hunt down witches, and burn them. The final haunting scene shows a young woman, innocent of the crimes drug off to be killed as we see in the eyes of Osmond, every woman is now the witch that mad him kill his beloved lady.

I really love watching films with some historical background. Especially those so far back that it’s difficult to believe this kind of world really existed. What’s fantastic about Black Death is there isn’t too much set-up involved with the film. It moves along quickly with the pace, tells the story it’s here to tell and finishes. There are no asides during this film, no stops along the way to try and make a political statement regarding some current event. This is the film, it’s about a group of warriors set out to find and kill a necromancer. That’s entirely what the film is interested in. Like I mentioned, I really liked the way this film wrapped up. I think it’s so easy to paint the heroes as ultra heroic and make them less accessible. Instead what Director Christopher Smith does is he shows the impact this event in Osmond’s life has of the rest of his life. He’s haunted by this trip and it changes the entire way he looks at the world. It’s not fun in terms of the subject matter, it’s pretty grisly at times, but it’s a good film that only suffers because there really isn’t much to sink into except for the character of Osmond. If there was just a hint of history behind a few of these guys it would have been a bit more effective, but again what I liked about it was how to the point it was. Either way, it’s an interesting film that explores the impact a real plague can have on people.