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  Last Legion, The Roamin' Romans
Year: 2007
Director: Doug Lefler
Stars: Colin Firth, Ben Kingsley, Aishwarya Rai, Peter Mullan, Kevin KcKidd, John Hannah, Iain Glen, Thomas Sangster, Rupert Friend, Nonso Anozie, Owen Teale, Alexander Siddig, Robert Pugh, James Cosmo, Harry Van Gorkum, Beata Ben Ammar, Lee Ingleby
Genre: Action, Historical, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: During the last days of the Roman Empire, the Goths had advanced on Rome, and Commander Aurelius (Colin Firth) had returned there after a failed campaign to find the whole place going to the dogs. He had been entrusted with a special sword that had been forged for Julius Caesar himself, and this day he caught a young boy (Thomas Sangster) apparently trying to steal it, so sent his deputy, Batiatus (Nonso Anozie), to deal with him. At first the boy thought he was going to lose his hand, but actually he was thrown into a trough of water, and his mysterious mentor Ambrosinus (Ben Kingsley) saved him further humiliation...

Just as well, too, because that boy was the last Emperor of Rome, Romulus Augustus, who reigned for a few meagre months before it all went to pot as far as the Empire went; here was a film that decided to follow him after that brief time at the top, where his parents are killed and he is forced to travel further afield in search of safety. Whether things turned out the way they did here are doubtful, but as no one now knows what really did happen to the boy, then the filmmakers could have carte blanche to invent any story they wished. Here, they bring Romulus and his cohorts to Britain, but not before there's some business about betrayal to contend with.

Not to mention a lot of people getting hit over the head and generally having the living daylights beaten out of them, for action was the order of the day as far as the approach to history went here. The Last Legion was the Dino De Laurentiis entry into the genre of historical epics that had been restarted with Braveheart and solidified in popularity by the Oscar-winning Gladiator, yet although they had a lot of money thrown at them, and some of them made a lot of money in return, few of them were much fun to watch. Such was the case here, in an effort that looked, if anything, like a television miniseries edited down to feature length for cinemas: one minute the cast are on their way to Constantinople...

...the next they are hiking over the Alps and have reached the shores of the British Isles, as if nothing worth mentioning had occured in between. Mind you, maybe nothing did, as what actually made it to the screen was epic by numbers stuff, enlivened briefly by its frequent bloodlust. The cast was worth noting, too, with Firth closer to a vacillator than a decisive man of the moment, and Kingsley adopting a strange Welsh accent which is only explained by the revelation at the finale: he wasn't Ambrosinus at all, he was - ah, but that would be telling. Although, if you haven't worked it out what with all the emphasis placed on the sword, then you're not paying attention, which may be understandable.

But if anyone steals the show, it's Aishwarya Rai as a warrior from India - not entirely sure what her Mira character was doing in Europe, but she's a welcome sight as her beauty eclipses everything else in the film. So captivating is she that a whole movie given over to her persona here would have been the better route to take; she handles the combat well, is sufficiently noble, and displays a degree of soulfulness that suggests where the film's strength really lies. Alas, her casting was evidently after the script had been delivered, so she's in too much of a supporting role, but as there are quite a few other people to consider in the plot, then you can spend the time when she's not on the screen wondering why all the Goths are Scottish, and if they couldn't have cast someone a little more commanding than Sangster because you hardly notice he was there otherwise. Music by Patrick Doyle.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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