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Donkin's World: Robin Hood Is Saving Private Ryan

...watching Ridley Scott's latest Robin Hood blockbuster I thought for a few minutes I was watching Saving Private Ryan with chain mail...

Richard Donkin enjoys the latest film version of the Robin Hood story.

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Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen: that's how it used to go when Richard Greene was doing the job. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vFL-lcxkYk

You knew where you were in those days. Little John had to fight him on a log crossing a river, Friar Tuck chucked him in to the same river and, even in more recent depictions, the Sheriff of Nottingham was a proper rotter.

But last night, watching Ridley Scott's latest Robin Hood blockbuster I thought for a few minutes I was watching Saving Private Ryan with chain mail. In a reverse of the Normandy invasion that came a little bit later in our history we had wooden landing craft hitting the English beaches. The ramps came down and men in chain mail charged for the shore in a hail of arrows; cue underwater shots of drowning men in blood-clouded water with arrows zinging by.

Unbelievable! Yet all great fun with a fascinating story line that had more than a nod to actual historic events in one or two places. Unlike most versions of the Robin Hood legend this did not have a faultless Richard I coming home to turf his brother out of power. Instead it showed us Richard dying while besieging a French fortress just as the history books told us happened. Scott's is a more genuine crusader Richard - one who had 2,700 Muslim prisoners executed in Acre.

King John is closer to the stereotype and Robin Hood himself is as rugged as they come. I can't think of an English film actor who could have performed the part as well as Russell Crowe. Robin Hood is a great theme for film directors and scriptwriters seeking to use their imaginations. OK, King John burns the Magna Carter (the document was all Robin Hood's idea in this version) but surely we can forgive such tweaks to the historical record when the director ensures that all the principal baddies are French. It's worth seeing if only for the thunk of arrow on wood that beats any Bulmer's cider advertisement

One of the best shots shows a boat coming up the Thames to the Tower of London with Westminster Abbey in the background and a new London Bridge under construction. Think of Braveheart meets The Longest Day meets Gladiator with the odd hobbit from Lord of the Rings and you just about have it. No thinking required so a good evening's entertainment after a hard day at the office.


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