Comparisons to Ridley Scott’s Gladiator are inevitable for any modern sword-and-sandals epic, with only the recent 300 proving it could stand up to a grizzly Russell Crowe (commercially at least), but this pleasant on the eye film maybe on a smaller scale but packs a fairly hefty punch.
As the Roman Empire is threatened by a marauding group of Barbarians, the new young Caesar Romulus Augustus finds himself in charge of a crumbling empire. Danger is predicted by Ambrosinus (Sir Ben Kingsley) a traveling shaman who some claim possesses mystical powers. When Romulus’s family is slaughtered and he himself is captured it falls to Aurelius (Colin Firth) to bring back the child to safety. As the commander of the Forth Legion he is reluctant to enter the politics of the situation and grudgingly accepts help from the Turkish assassin ordered to assist in the dangerous mission.
It’s no surprise if you have watched the trailer or even read anything about the film, that the mysterious assassin is in fact Aishwarya Rai, and as the small group journey across war torn lands a close relationship develops between the two warriors. When they do catch up with Romulus, they find that the last sanctuary to them is in Britannia where they must make a final stand with the ‘Last Legion’.
This film is actually not that bad at all. It does look like a budget version of some of the other recent epics we’ve scene, and the mix of ‘factual’ plotting sits uncomfortably with some of the ‘mythical’ elements in the script. Indeed it’s not until the final reel that this makes some sort of sense plot wise (if not logically). However the neat twist of having an exotic love interest (and they really don’t get more exotic than a Bollywood superstar and former Miss World) works really well. Rai’s character Mira is an equal, and she plays her with great zest, particularly in some of the more energetic fight sequences. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in this role, and she has a great sparring partner in Firth who also proves he is more than up to the job of a pretty demanding role.
Kingsley’s character has the potential to be the weak link in the film, but he plays a serious character with enough self-aware humour so as not to bog down proceedings. Where the film is let down is in its need to inject ‘comical’ elements in an apparent attempt to appeal to some of the more simple audience members. It’s really not needed and if they could have toned this down, and reduced the importance of the ‘Prophecy of the sword’ the film would have been excellent all round.
As it is, The Last Legion is fun and entertaining throughout with strong performances which in some cases a better than the film warrants. Not an epic but still of note in this genre of cinema. And in my personal opinion a lot better than the over-rated 300.