The Reckoning

February 26th, 2004


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Still of Paul Bettany in The ReckoningStill of Willem Dafoe in The ReckoningStill of Vincent Cassel in The ReckoningPaul McGuigan and Paul Bettany in The ReckoningStill of Gina McKee in The ReckoningStill of Willem Dafoe in The Reckoning

A priest on the lam takes up with a traveling band of actors, who then discover a murder has occurred and try to solve it by recreating the crime in a play.

Release Year: 2003

Rating: 6.5/10 (3,337 voted)

Critic's Score: 49/100

Director: Paul McGuigan

Stars: Willem Dafoe, Paul Bettany, Marian Aguilera

In 14th-century England, a young monk breaks his vow of chastity and flees the wrath of his bishop and fellow monks. A fugitive priest, he then witnesses the murder of a traveling performer--and subsequently, the mourning of actor by his fellow troupe members. He eventually becomes initiated into the troupe as a player, replacing the murdered man. They travel from town to town performing their standard morality play. They arrive in a town where a boy has been killed and a young deaf-mute girl has been imprisoned for the crime--sentenced to death for witchcraft and murder. Discarding the expected bible stories, the actors stage a performance based on the crime. Through the performance of the play, they discover that the townspeople know the young woman did not, in fact, commit the murder. The stage becomes a place where vital human truth is told. Thus, simultaneously, the fugitive priest comes to terms with his own crime and makes a powerful sacrifice, thereby redeeming himself.

Writers: Barry Unsworth, Mark Mills

Paul Bettany - Nicholas
Marian Aguilera - Nicholas' Lover
Trevor Steedman - Jealous Husband
Simon McBurney - Stephen
Tom Hardy - Straw
Brian Cox - Tobias
Willem Dafoe - Martin
Gina McKee - Sarah
Stuart Wells - Springer (as George Wells)
Vincent Cassel - Lord De Guise
Elvira Mínguez - Martha
Richard Durden - Town Justice
Ewen Bremner - Simon Damian
Mark Benton - Sheriff
Hamish McColl - Innkeeper

Taglines: The truth shall come to light


Official Website: Official site [Germany] | Paramount Classics |

Release Date: 26 February 2004

Filming Locations: Almería, Andalucía, Spain

Opening Weekend: $18,044 (USA) (7 March 2004) (5 Screens)

Gross: $256,620 (USA) (20 June 2004)

Technical Specs


Incorrectly regarded as goofs: The climactic scene where Lord De Guise confronts Nicholas in the cathedral has many continuity gaffes and a scene where De Guise speaks when his shut mouth is seen up close. This is a deliberate dramatic styling to create a sense of disorientation.

[first lines]
Nicholas: Seek those things that are above, not those things that are upon the earth.

User Review

A Canterbury tale

Rating: 7/10

This film was a total surprise for me. I went to see it without any pre conceived ideas; I had no clue what to expect. I based my decision on the the strength of the cast here assembled. It proved me right, as this is a movie that is very satisfying without being pretentious, or preachy.

It is, without a doubt, a major achievement for its director, Paul McGuigan. It probably would be intimidating to undertake a project of this magnitude and still bring together all the right elements to make this film enjoyable. The only sad part is that it seems this film is not getting its fair share the way it's being marketed, at least in this country.

Paul Bettany is amazing as the young priest who commits a terrible sin and has to leave the security of his church. He is fortunate to meet with the kind hearted Martin, and his troupe of players. William Dafoe is very good as the principal actor in this group. Brian Cox's role is brief, but he is very effective. Elvira Minguez has no dialogue at all, but her presence is crucial to the story and her Martha adds another layer to the story.

Despite the different acting styles and accents, the story keeps the viewer engrossed in the story. I do hope it will get the audience it sadly needs, for this is a much better film than the silly stuff being offered these days.