Starring: Colin Firth, Ben Kingsley, Aishwarya Rai, Thomas Sangster
Director: Doug Lefler
Historical epics have, well, a very nice history in cinema. Anytime a film has been made about a certain time in history, it is usually well thought of and well crafted. Roman epics, in particular, have a good track record with its heavy blood-soaked history, which is displayed by terrific action sequences and up to the mark acting. The Last Legion happens to belong to this genre of films. So, the big question is whether the film lives up to its predecessors. Sadly, it does not as there is not much history nor is the film of epic proportions to even be put in the same class as other great historical epics. The Last Legion is a good idea gone wrong, as films like this are usually bankable. This one totally misses the boat.
The Last Legion is a film that takes place during the Roman Empire, 476 A.D. to be precise. It centers on the twelve-year-old boy Romulus Augustus (Thomas Sangster) who is about to be crowned the new emperor. But on the day of his coronation, his parents are killed, and he and his mentor, Ambrosinus (Ben Kingsley), are abducted by the barbarians. Aurelius (Colin Firth), who was appointed the bodyguard of Romulus, must now embark on a journey to free Romulus and Ambrosinus. He is joined by the men of his legionnaire and a beautiful female warrior, Mira (Aishwarya Rai) on this mission. The rest of the story revolves around the attempt to free Romulus and Ambrosinus, and the final war that takes place to make that happen.
The film’s main struggle lies in the fact that it is not a real epic. The plot and scenery makes it seem like one, but the execution is totally different. It is treated like a run in the mill Hollywood action flick. That would explain the short duration of the film because epics are usually long and filled with drama. There is no real drama in this film. All there is running from one place to another, a couple of action scenes here and there, and some really boring overblown sequences. The dialogues in these types of films are supposed to be powerful and meaningful. This film’s dialogues aren’t either. They leave no impact on you and half the time you don’t even understand what they’re talking about. The film lacks any type of soul whatsoever. It tries hard to be serious, but you can tell this isn’t exactly how things went down in history.
One place where the film is commendable is the action sequences that take place. Although they are quite different from epic films, where blood is spilled all over, this film does its best with a PG-13 rating. The action is not over the top or fake. The sequences seem as if that is how the warriors back then would battle. In a way, it was pretty realistic, which is always a plus. But since the film is short, there are not as many action sequences as one would hope there to be. That is a downer because had there been more action, this film could have been better.
The film goes over the top with the little drama it provides; so more action would have hid this deficiency of the film. If the focus of the film was the action, then it could have been looked at as a nice action entertainer. But the film is confused as to what genre it belongs to. Because it takes place during the Roman Empire, they try to focus on the historical plot, which is close to non-existent. This is a mistake because the move isn’t treated like an epic, so there is no need to do that. They were trying to fit in too many things into this one movie, and it all fell flat.
Doug Lefler, the director, drops the ball with this project. If he knew exactly what type of film he was making, it could have been decent. But he is trying to intertwine two different genres in the film, and it ends up making no sense because you are not sure what type of film he is trying to portray. It’s sad that the best thing in the movie, the action, is what you see the least of in the movie. Doug should figure out what genre of film he is making next time and incorporate ingredients that fit that type of film.
Colin Firth does a fairly decent job. He gets more to do in the film than anyone else, and he doesn’t disappoint. The only problem is he doesn’t really have the look of a warrior, so he kind of looks misplaced.
Ben Kingsley barely has anything to do in the movie, which is sad because his character is one of the most important in the film. Many important things in the film revolve around his character, but the only scene where we actually get to see him do something significant is the last scene. One wonders what made him choose to do this movie.
Aishwarya Rai impresses in her first real Hollywood role. She gets the best action scenes, and looks beautiful all throughout. Although, she needs to choose her Hollywood roles more carefully because someone of her talent can clearly do better than this film, as she proved in this film.
Thomas Sangster does very well, as he gets many important scenes to enact. The boy is promising. The rest of the cast is just about okay, as they do not get as much scope.
The Last Legion is no great cinema, which films of its genre are accustomed to be. The things it has going for it are the good action and getting to watch Aishwarya Rai kick ass in a Hollywood film. Other than that, nothing in the film really holds you. The movie tells a story that you may have learned in history class. But just like history class, there are portions in this film that just may make you fall asleep! If you want to watch a movie on the Roman Empire, this is definitely not the one. Watch it only for Ash if you’re a Bollywood fan, which you most likely are if you’re on this site reading this.