I've been meaning to write a defense of the director's cut of Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven (one of my favorite movies of the Aughts), for some time now, so I knew what to choose for my latest Criminally Underrated piece for Spectrum Culture. The theatrical cut is an admittedly mediocre movie, stressing Gladiator-esque action in an attempt to cash in on Lord of the Rings. The director's cut, however, belongs with films like Munich and Gangs of New York as some of the finest American filmmaking to seriously address the War on Terror and the modern context of endless infighting, wrongheaded wars and relativist righteousness, typically through the prism of the past. All three films (even Gangs, which concerns the American Civil War, not ages-old Middle Eastern conflicts) suggest a cyclical movement of violence from outside forces that creates seemingly endless fighting that eventually tears apart people from the inside. Kingdom of Heaven takes (even) more liberties with history than the other two, but its fundamental position, that peace, however tenuous and short-lived, is preferable to senseless war, is delivered with a nuance I've sadly come not to expect from Scott.
My full piece is up at Spectrum Culture.