The Devil’s Whore aka The Devil’s Mistress (2008)

What troubled times these were. 17th century England. Thomas Rainsborough. Oliver Cromwell. The English Civil War. The Levellers. The execution of Charles I. Put all this together and use as a central figure a beautiful young woman, married three times, said to have seen the devil, accused of being a whore and surviving her execution and you have the ingredients of a very entertaining mini-series.

The Devil’s Whore or (called The Devil’s Mistress in the US) tells the story of the fictitious Angelica Fanshawe. Related to King Charles I we see her married to one of his relatives who ends up being executed. The English Civil War is seen through her eyes and its troubled history told in a very dramatic way. It makes you want to brush up your history immediately. As the addition of this fictitious noble woman tells us, the filmmakers have taken some considerable liberties, still they mange to convey how chaotic these times were. Cromwell was at the head of the Parliament, together with Thomas Rainsborough, the head of the so-called Levellers. These two men occupy two extreme positions. One wants to gain power over the parliament and have the King listen to them, while the other, as the name of the movement says, want’s all men to be the same. No more aristocracy and hierarchy. The land should be divided among everyone. As much as they are friends in the beginning, they clash and when Rainsborough is killed, it seems likely that Cromwell is responsible.

After the beheading of Charles I Cromwell is the most powerful man in England. He sends the army to Ireland and fights on many different fronts. But the war doesn’t bring peace to the country. Cromwell finally realizes that England sn’t ready yet. If he wants to restore peace there must be a new king.

I love this mini-series and have already watched it twice. Admittedly I didn’t only like it for the historical and political background but because I enjoyed Angelica Fanshawe’s story that is interwoven with the facts. In the beginning of the movie, when she is only a little girl, she sees the devil in a tree. He seems to mock her. But at the same time he transforms her into a woman, far more gutsy than women were at this time. She chooses her husbands, she speaks freely, she disguises as a man when needed and fights like a man as well.

The Devil’s Whore is an entertaining tale and a guilty pleasure set during the English Civil War, starring actors that have become famous with other movies and series. Dominic West (The Wire) plays Oliver Cromwell and Michael Fassbender (300, Inglourious Basterds, Shame, Fish Tank) is Thomas Rainsborough, John Simm (Life on Mars) is Edward Sexby and Angelica Fansahwe is played by Andrea Riseborough.

The only English trailer I found has Portuguese subtitles but that shouldn’t matter too much.

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300 (2006) This is Sparta!

Whether you like 300 or not, the least you can say is that it is quite original. I can’t think of any other war movie relying so heavily on CGI and adding so many fantastic elements.

This is a Rock’n Roll retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae. Part fact, part highly fictionalized story, it is a romp no less starring some of today’s best-loved stars like Gerard Butler (Good-bye Frankie, P.S. I Love You, Beowulf & Grendel), Lena Headey (The Broken, Terminator series) , Michael Fassbender (Centurion, Fish Tank, Inglorious Basterds) and Dominic West (The Wire, The Devil’s Whore, Centurion).

At the beginning of the movie we are introduced to the Spartans and their ways. They are warriors and already trained to become warriors at a very early age. They don’t like deficiencies or disabilities. A child that shows sings of weakness will be discarded. Discipline, endurance and self-control are the key words. At school we were taught the story of a Spartan boy who hid a fox under his coat. The fox started to eat him alive but the boy wouldn’t flinch. Every thing that we see about the Spartans in the movie is factual. Also the role of the women. Unlike in Athens, women were highly educated and treated like equals.

The war started because the Spartans did not, as demanded by the King of the Persians, Xerxes, kneel down and subdue. No way. On the contrary. Why would they, after all, this was Sparta. They were not even impressed by Xerxes huge Army against which a little number of 300 Spartan soldiers looked almost ludicrous and would probably not stand a chance. Surprisingly as this may seem, they defended themselves incredibly well. The Persians really got their asses kicked.

If you want to know what the outcome of the battle was you will have to watch the movie.

300 is quite impressive and, although it isn’t one of my favourites, it is entertaining and, despite some fantastic elements, historically accurate. I always found the Spartans highly fascinating. Somewhat crazy but interesting.

The King of Sparta and his wife are very attached to each other which gives the opportunity for a bit of romance as well.

Is this movie purely a guilty pleasure or is it more? I think it is a mix.

Centurion (2010): A little bit of Gladiator, King Arthur and 300

When I started this blog I wanted to stick to war movies in the strict sense of the term only but now I feel I am in the mood for more liberties. A few months back I would not have included Centurion but now I do. I would not have mentioned Gladiator, King Arthur or 300 either. (If I did, King Arthur would be high up in my Top 10, probaly even making Black Hawk Down step down.)

Be it as it may, to compare Centurion (a British movie by the way) to those above mentioned movies is very unfortunate for it because it is not up to the comparison, I’m afraid. Nevertheless it is  entertaining. However, compared to the three others, Centurion is super gory. And there are a lot of very combative warrior women in it. By the way, Dominic West, from The Wire,  is in this one too but he is not the main character. He stars as General Vilnius. Michael Fassbender has the leading role as the Centurion Quintus Dias. The German actor Fassbender could already be seen in 300, Inglourious Basterds and The Devil’s Whore, to name but a few of his movies.

The year is 117 AD. The Roman Empire stretches from Spain to Egypt and as far as the Black Sea in the East. Only Britain is fighting off its invaders. The Empire is stopped by the savagely fierce Picts.  Centurion Quintus Dias is the only survivor of a Pictish raid. He joins the legendary Ninth Legion of General Vilnius who is on a mission to erase the Picts and their leader Gorlacon from the face of the earth. When they are ambushed and the general is captured Quintus Dias is left alone with a small platoon far behind enemy lines. They first attempt to free their general and after this the real hunt begins. Led by a female warrior tracker (Olga Kurylenko), surnamed she-wolf, who has been mutilated by Romans in her youth and sworn to destroy each and every one of them, the Picts hunt them relentlessly. Without the help of a Pictish outcast, said to be a witch, they would not stand a chance but even so, they are soon highly decimated and in great trouble.

As said before, Centurion is really gory. It reminded me of Gladiator because of the battles in the woods. Of King Arthur because of the way they flee and are hunted,  because of the scenerey, mountains and snow and  also because of the female warriors. Same for 300. A little group outnumbered by a fierce enemy. The end however is quite different from the other three.

As I already said, it is not as good as the other three mentioned movies, since it is not  heavy on psychology and the Picts are shown as savages whereas we are led to believe the Romans were faultless,  but it is an  entertaining watch with loads of  battle and fighting scenes.

For a change the trailer is quite true to the movie.

Some Actors of The Wire and their Roles in Recent War Movies

I am not the most avid viewer of series but there are some I did or do enjoy a lot. Six Feet Under was just excellent and so is True Blood. I also quite like Dexter. One of the best series however is The Wire, pretty awesome. Maybe you liked The Wire too and were wondering what some of the excellent actors did after  the The Wire has ended.

Set during the British Civil War, The Devil´s Whore is a very convincing historical drama.   Dominic West, Detective Jimmy McNulty in The Wire, stars as Oliver Cromwell. This mini series is a must-see for everybody interested in British history. It does take some liberties with some facts but still it is more than just good.

Idris Elba who played the unlikable baddie Russell “Stringer” Bell in The Wire can be seen in the leading role in Sometimes in April. I have not seen this yet but I read that it is the best movie that has been done on the war in Rwanda. Far better than Hotel Rwanda. It is a TV production, maybe that is  the reason why it is not widely known. Unlike Hotel Rwanda it really looks into the history of Rwanda and the reasons for the conflict.

Last but not least, James Ransone, who played the annoying character Ziggy Sobotka, stars as Cpl. Josh Ray Person at the side of Alexander Skarsgard in Generation Kill. A very good performance.

Ok, it is slightly off topic, but what series do you think are outstanding? Any preferences? Suggestions?