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  Last Templar, The Anything Da Vinci can do, Mira can do better
Year: 2008
Director: Paolo Barzman
Stars: Mira Sorvino, Scott Foley, Victor Garber, Kenneth Welsh, Anthony Lemke, Danny Bianco Hall, Omar Sharif, Stephane Demers, Claudia Ferri, Christian Paul, Rebecca Windheim, Don Jordan
Genre: Action, Thriller, Adventure, TV MovieBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Based on a novel by Raymond Khoury, this two-part mini-series is one of those religious-themed archaeological adventure romps, equal parts Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci Code (2006). The Last Templar gets off to a winning start, as knights on horseback gatecrash the glitzy gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum, making off with treasures of the Vatican. Glamorous archaeologist Tess Chaykin (Mira Sorvino) rides after the thieves, still wearing her slinky cocktail dress, and jousts one into the custody of F.B.I Agent Sean Daley (Scott Foley). But the thief and other suspects fall victim to a shadowy assassin. A trail of clues turns into a treasure hunt, encompassing embittered archaeologist Bill Vance (Kenneth Welsh) and rogue Vatican emissary Monsignor De Angelis (Victor Garber), as Tess uncovers an ancient decoder that could unlock “the greatest archaeological find of the century.”

Producer Robert Halmi Jr. specializes in glossy, star-laden fantasy epics that range from outstanding (Gulliver’s Travels (1996), Merlin (1999)) to sub-par (Earthsea (2004), King Solomon’s Mines (2004)). His involvement ensures this venture into Dan Brown territory at least stands head and shoulders above the BBC’s risible Bonekickers, to emerge as a mostly witty, involving affair. Sorvino brings intelligence and enthusiasm to her smart and sassy single mom-turned-daredevil archaeologist, dubbed Mrs. Indiana Jones by the Feds (“I’m the sequel to the prequel”), even though the script uses Tess’ growing obsession to paper over some lapses in judgement. Unlike Indy, the requirements of TV drama mean the pace sometimes lags amidst soap opera romance and teary speeches outlining past personal traumas.

The script works up a mild debate about the value of religion in the 21st century, with some expected swipes at the Catholic Church. Considering the real Templars were violent, war-mongering fanatics, it’s curious to see them cast as “good guys” out to discredit Christianity in the name of world peace. Regardless of anyone’s personal views on the Catholic Church, the idea of a Vatican emissaries employing hired killers and high-tech spy ware seem a tad far-fetched. Victor Garber, a fine actor, is underused as a character fast becoming a cliché.

However, in the initially opposing figures of Catholic Sean and non-believer Tess, the story balances a more thoughtful discourse on the difference between faith and dogma than Dan Brown managed. Also of interest, “man of reason” Bill Vance proves just as fanatical and dangerous as the men he is out to discredit, although sadly, Kenneth Welsh, an actor with an annoying tendency to rant regardless of which character he’s playing, diminishes the role.

Working from a premise less far-fetched than The Da Vinci Code, this sidesteps the issue of whether its “treasure” (which as you might guess, isn’t gold) is real or fake. Die-hard atheists may cry foul, but Omar Sharif fittingly ennobles his sagely holy man to state a worthy case for the value of faith. Despite some silly non-sequiturs and a certain suspension of disbelief being required (as Tess deciphers in days what experts struggled centuries to do), this entertains quite amiably.

Click here for the trailer

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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