This is a sprawling mess of a film that attempts too much and so falls some way short, however it is still ruddy good. Based on the first three books of our eponymous hero Captain Alatriste (Viggo Mortenson), this is a swashbuckler from start to finish. It is also a sort of Spanish history lesson, it kicks off in 1622 and the fighting in Flanders, but soon jumps back to Spain and continues with the jumping all the way through.
It also has a love interest or two and some darn fine acting. At one point Alatriste is told `You must change mare, the saddle is already occupied' - indicating his chosen bed mate is now seriously off limits. The attention to period detail is excellent and the costumes stunning, this is a film that has had a lot of money thrown at it, That may also be the problem it is just too ambitious and some may feel too long, as it runs to 135 minutes. That is not normally a problem, but with the constant jumps in the plot unless you are really hooked or committed, you may find your attention starting to wander, I watched over two sittings so was not too bothered. The fight scenes are really realistic, especially with so much use of daggers and swords, they do not stint on the blood spurts and it is not all trendy `300' graphics type blood either, but good old fashioned `hide behind the sofa' stuff.
The tale is sprawling, but the emotions come across as very real. There is a lot of emphasis on honour, loyalty, love and patriotism. Director Agustin Diaz Yanez has made a good fist of trying to pull the books together, but maybe would have benefitted from doing three films instead of this encyclopaedic one. It is in Spanish with some very good sub titles, there is a bit of French too but nothing to fret about. If you like a bit of an historical swash buckler with some love and gore thrown in then you should give it a go - but best to go rental.