Cleopatra (1999)

Reviewer: Charity Bishop
    
You would have a hard time distinguishing this Hallmark adaptation from a Hollywood production. It has a gorgeous soundtrack, stellar acting, epic battle scenes... and enough violence and sex to give any modern marvel a run for its money at the box office.     Egypt lies torn in its loyalty between the two women who struggle in power for the throne. In the midst of this turmoil, the taxes have not been paid to Rome and Julius Caesar has marched upon the city, to take it captive until new alliances can be formed. The ruler seated upon the throne is a twelve year old boy under the right hand of his older sister Arsinoe; it is she who has kept Cleopatra from taking the empire, despite their father's desire that it be his eldest to succeed him.
 
Caesar cares little who rules the throne... as long as Egypt remains loyal to Rome and pays its annual taxes. Cleopatra has learned of his conquest to take her father's city and devises a scheme to win him to her side. Having herself smuggled into the city, she is deposited literally at the feet of the Roman invaders and asks Caesar (Timothy Dalton) to help restore her to her throne. When all else fails, her charms take her into his bedroom, and after one night together he removes Arsinoe from the throne, and gives it to Cleopatra under the condition that she rules with her brother at her side. This safety is short-lived, for her brother has been turned against her... and Arsinoe rouses her armies to attack the palace and drive back the Romans. Caesar is triumphant in his victory, and Cleopatra's reign restored... but she goes against him and has her sister killed in the prison, despite his orders that she remain alive as a bartering tool. She only eludes his fury by flirting with danger, and her leadership becomes etched in stone.
 
Egypt has endured much in the way of civil war and famine. The people are hungry. The taxes are high. The treasuries in danger of depletion. And in Rome, rumor is stirring of Caesar's romantic affair with an Egyptian queen whist he neglects his Roman wife and responsibilities at home. Only his nephew, Octavian, and his loyal Mark Anthony (Billy Zane) are able to keep Marcus Brutus and his howling pack of wolves at bay. Caesar must return to Rome to defend his position there, just as Cleopatra has learned that she will bear his child. This is her link between the Roman Empire and Egypt... a child, a bartering tool, a sense of security. But Rome is not compassionate to illegitimate children, and divorce is not something spoken of lightly... nor would a romantic alliance be favored. Cleopatra may have won her throne, but she may be forced to fight to keep it. Even then, she cannot protect Caesar in his fight in her favor. And her seductive charms may not work on all the men of the world...
 
The story demands a certain amount of accuracy, and in most areas Hallmark has gone all out to make ancient Egypt as impressive and majestic as the tombs would have us believe. Rich fabrics, cold stone walls, and draped tapestries provide a rich backdrop. If ancient Egypt and its history fascinates you, Cleopatra is worth a rental.
 

Sexual Content:

Cleopatra consults a prostitute for tips on "lovemaking." She seduces Caesar. The scene isn't particularly graphic but does involve dialogue and kissing before the camera pans away. They're seen numerous times in an intimate context, often reclining next to one another. Most of the garments are sheer; you can see Cleopatra's breasts through the fabric. Mark Anthony and Cleopatra quarrel after he tries flirting with her; he angrily begins to storm from the room but instead the two have violent, explicit sex.

Language:

None.

Violence:

People are stabbed, shot with arrows, skewered with poles, impaled by lances, and beheaded. Cleopatra's brother falls from his chariot and strikes his head upon a stone, killing him. She has her sister murdered in the dungeons (seen only by reflection upon the wall). At least twice decapitated heads are shown in gruesome glimpses. Caesar's death scene is particularly cruel and jarring... in which he's stabbed a dozen times by those he counted among his friends. Men fall upon their swords to kill themselves, and blood is spilt in the city streets.

Other:

Paganism.