Directed by Doug Lefler
Written by Jez Butterworth, Tom Butterworth, Carlo Carlei, Peter Rader, and Valerio Manfredi
Starring Colin Firth (Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary) and Ben Kingsley (Schindler’s List, Gandhi), The Last Legion looks and sounds like a rousing, and inspiring tale but the film never quite gets the spirit soaring.
What is The Last Legion about?
Caesars are being killed, left and right. There’s only one heir to the throne of Rome left. It’s a young child, Romulus Augustus (Love Actually’s Thomas Sangster). He is being schooled and protected by a sort of wizard, Ambrosinus (Kingsley). The boy has many enemies. Aurelius (Firth) is the great and talented soldier who swore allegiance to protect him. He tries to do his duty in spite of the overwhelming odds against him and his group of soldiers. Rome is attacked. The great city burns. The few survivors rush to save and protect the young Caesar. Aurelius and his soldiers team up with a brave, talented woman from the East.
Along with Ambrosinus, the group flees to Britannia, where they hope to find the 9th Legion. What they find is devastation, and chaos. However, the retired legion of soldiers has families, oppressed by a powerful man in a gold mask. The brave men and the one brave woman try to unite the Britannia legion to protect what little they have.
As far as the final scenes are concerned, whether or not King Arthur or his legendary Excalibur sword actually existed is beside the point. It’s hard to dismiss a legend of so very many years ago.
It’s better than the 2004 King Arthur. I actually believed in the legend while watching this tale. Given the fact that none of us were alive during the period, who can say for sure if it’s true or not?
As for the way the movie is done, I have a few qualms. Acting from Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley is top-notch. Although, I must say, there were a few scenes with Kingsley’s Merlin-like wizardly character that reminded me a little too much of Ian McKellan’s Gandolf character in The Lord of the Rings. The group of soldiers treads steadily across the Alps, much like the mountains the fellowship was crossing in The Fellowship of the Ring. Action scenes feel like something in The Mummy movies. We see absolutely no blades penetrate, only the aftermath of an attack. It’s history Hollywoodized. The question is: Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
I’ll give the movie one thing. Characters actually seem to be in danger. The recent 300 portrays a legion of plastic action figures that don’t seem to care if there are a million men marching on them or even if there is a draft up their legs. Main characters are injured. The three Lord of the Rings films feature three to six central warriors who hardly ever get a scratch on them. Kingsley is no Gandolf, but he’s not supposed to be. Seeing Firth go from romantic comedy to serious drama is quite a thing. Of course, the man does throw in some bits of comedy but it’s nothing that will leave audiences rolling in the aisles. Sangster plays a very believable child Caesar. And, you can’t help but buy Aishwarya Rai as the butt-kicking Eastern woman, Mira.
Some of these characters are put in settings similar to that of Braveheart, and situations similar to that of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Does any of this really hurt the overall enjoyment of the picture? No. Many movies today are created from bits and pieces of other movies. The only true disappointment is how cold this inspiring and rousing film left me feeling. I personally want to feel a chill of excitement rise up my spine by speeches made in a film. I want to be able to see whether or not characters are actually killing their enemies or beating them up like some well-orchestrated slapstick epic.
See The Last Legion with an open mind. Don’t expect to find too many serious or significant historical facts. The movie is enjoyable. The acting is good. The writing isn’t exactly inspired. The Last Legion leaves too much to the imagination in some areas and too little in other areas.