Kingdom of Heaven

By Ridley Scott; starring Orlando Bloom as Balian de Ibelin, Liam Neeson as Godfrey de Ibelin, Marton Csokas as Guy de Lusignan, Eva Green as Sibylla, Jeremy Irons as Tiberias and Edward Norton as King Baldwin.

Kingdom of Heaven takes place in Jerusalem during the 12th century Crusades. Orlando Bloom plays the main character, an honest blacksmith named Balian. His wife commits suicide because their child was lost during childbirth so he takes off for Jerusalem to redeem his wife’s as well as his own soul.

Ridley Scott does a fantastic job developing the characters of Kingdom of Heaven, especially Balian. He goes from antisocial blacksmith to leader of the Christian army, battling to defend Jerusalem.

Balian’s father, Godfrey, admits that he has led an imperfect life, but he does manage to teach Balian a few basic truths before he dies: Protect the weak, tell the truth and follow his conscience. Balian sticks to these basic truths and thereby demonstrates that following a few basic truths is the surest way to radically change the world.

Balian is surrounded by politics and manmade religion, but he seeks something more spiritually substantial. At one point he tells his friend, “I’ve lost my religion,” to which his friend replies, “I don’t put much stock in religion.” His friend goes on to explain that the true state of a man’s heart and mind is what really matters.

Balian’s peers encourage him to kill his arch enemy, Guy de Lusignan while he has the chance. Doing this will not only elevate him to the position of king, it will prevent a war with the Muslims that would cost thousands of lives. However Balian decides to obey his conscience. He refuses to commit one little evil to prevent what seems to be a greater evil.

Balian’s decision leads to the fall of Jerusalem and the annihilation of the Christian army. From God's point of view, this was the right decision. Balian embraces the secret brilliance of faith by trusting God over his ability to crunch numbers. In God's economy, it is better to “tell the truth, even if this leads to your death,” as Godfrey said. If Balian had compromised his convictions he might have prevented the death of thousands of people, but he honored God more by trusting his conscience. This demonstrates the general rule that God's priorities are more valuable than human life.

Kingdom of Heaven demonstrates the futility of manmade religion. The selfish, religious fanatics are continually at odds with the few men who think rationally about their situations. Some of the Christian leaders mindlessly chant “God wills it” just before they do something they know in their conscience to be wrong. Therefore Balian’s sincere understanding of what is truly God's will stands in contrast to the stunning stupidity of the religious men surrounding him.

Balian's unassuming faith stands in contrast to his hypocritical peers in a few other ways: He recognizes the fact that human life is more valuable than brick and mortar. He is willing to sacrifice his life to protect the helpless. He does the right thing for the sake of doing what's right, not for his own glory.

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