The Last Legion (2007)

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

 

This movie came out on DVD in Britain almost four months before it hit the United States in theatres. It flew so low under the radar that most audiences were not even aware of its existence, perhaps because it is a B-grade movie, but it also has some fantastic actors in it. Throughout, it was very apparent in my mind that this was not your average million dollar film but I was having so much fun I didn't care.

    

The sun has long since set on the glory days of the Roman Empire, leaving a war torn civilization in its wake, under constant threat of the invading Goths. The heir to this ruin of a city is Romulus Augustus (Thomas Sangster), a twelve year old boy with a fascination for weaponry, who just happens to make a bad impression on his sworn protector, Aurelius (Colin Firth). When Rome is invaded and burned to the ground, his parents among those slain, Romulus is taken by the opposing army, along with his advisor Ambrosinus (Ben Kingsley). Held captive on an island fortress in Capri, there is nothing but cruelty and abuse awaiting them. Determined not to let Rome's future ruler perish, Aurelius enlists the assistance of two soldiers from the Byzantine Empire in a rescue mission.

    

Together with the beautiful and dangerous fighter Mira (Aishwarya Rai), Aurelius and his men liberate their child leader from Capri and go in search of the long lost 9th Legion, hoping to recruit them into the fight against the Goths. The result is an entertaining two hours spent in moments of budding romance, mentorship, and battle scenes. The script is reasonably well written and the scenery is gorgeous. It was a joy to see Firth and Rai working together. They had a nice chemistry despite their considerable age gap. The real jewel of the production is Kingsley, whose advisor/magician is both amusing and formidable. I loved seeing him in action. For the most part it is a cheaply made production. The audience is never in doubt of that, but somehow it manages to be entertaining enough that we aren't overly distracted by it. The film never takes itself too seriously, and so the audience can forgive its more shallow moments. Many instances had me either smiling or laughing.

    

There was a playful sword fight between Aurelius and Mira that was particularly fun, as well as comical instances of baiting one another. I also went in without being aware that the story would eventually entwine with the legend of King Arthur, so that was a pleasant surprise (one now, apparently, being marketed in order to sell the film). Although the characters attempt to avoid trading in justice for vengeance, there is a certain amount of pleasure involved in the eventual downfall of their enemies. These minor faults are not enough to steer viewers away from the film, which is a nice alternative to the other bloodlust Roman battle epics out there. It might not have the emotional impact or staying power of Gladiator, but it doesn't have the gore either. And that's a good thing in my book.  

  

Sexual Content:

Mira slips into Aurelius' tent one night and curls up next to him. Departing from the sea, her clothes cling revealingly to her.

     

Language:

None.

  

Violence:

There is a large amount of violence but none of it is overly gruesome. The worst of it is a man being run through with a sword, and another perishing in an inferno. Many soldiers are stabbed or shot with arrows. Dead bodies line the fields of battle. A major character is mortally wounded. The villains are not above wiping out entire families to prove a point. 

   

Other:

There are a couple of references to the "gods." Ambrosinus has supernatural abilities that he uses on several occasions, but magic is never over-emphasized.