I am often amazed at some of the movies that critics trash. The one I am about to review is among them. True, the film took a bit of license with historical events. However, Hollywood does that every single day. This case was no different.
Perhaps they hated it because it promoted the central theme of the triumph of good over evil. After all, so many today want us to believe that evil doesn’t really exist at all or, if it does, it us – – those of us who believe in the concept – – are the evil ones.
Maybe they didn’t like the film because it wasn’t packed with big name stars. Although, I would certainly classify Ben Kingsley and Colin Firth as big names in the business. Whatever their reason, they claimed to dislike it. So I am going against the grain because I loved it!
The movie, entitled “The Last Legion,” takes place in 460 AD when the last of the Caesars – – Romulus Augustus Caesar – – is about to take the throne at the tender age of 12. But this young Caesar isn’t as bloodthirsty and cruel as some of his previous ancestors. He craves peace and prosperity for all; not just for the wealthy and powerful.
However, there are those who want to keep things as they have been for hundreds of years with clans and countries alike warring over land, wealth, property, and power. They have no intent of letting a young boy risk that for them.
In an unusual turn for him, Colin Firth plays the captain of the emperor’s guards. He has sworn an oath of allegiance to protect the boy no matter what. However, his oath almost comes to a quick end when Rome is attacked and burnt to the ground by invading forces. The enemy takes the boy with the intent of executing him.
With the help of young female warrior, named Mira (Aishwarya Rai), from British India, Aurelius (Firth) and a handful of his men set out to rescue Caesar from the island of Capri. Little do they know that rescuing the boy is the least of their worries. For hot on their trail is a dangerous marauder by the name of Vortygn.
Vortygn is the ultimate evil. Ambrosinus (Kingsley), young Caesar’s tutor and trainer, met him when he was a young priest charged with guarding the sword of Julius Caesar. Vortygn desperately sought it, believing it would ensure his destiny to rule the world. Ambrosinus, of course, had no intention of letting it slip into any other hands than the one who was meant to rule.
To protect the boy, Aurelius needs help. Unfortunately, most of his former Roman brigades have left to join the other side. Only one remains; the ninth legion. The small group of would-be saviors sets off to find them only to discover that they have discarded their swords in favor of plowshares, a home, and family.
It seems that now that they have something worth having, they no longer care who rules and don’t want to protect Caesar or even come to the rescue of Aurelius. Only a few join the fight against Vortygn. Will that be enough to save the child who is destined to change the way of war? I can’t tell you that because it would certainly spoil the movie.
I loved this film. While Firth wouldn’t have been my first choice for Aurelius, I thought he did a good job. Kingsley was, as always, perfect. He wrapped his character in just the right amount of mystique to keep you guessing throughout the movie “who” or “what” he might actually be.
Rai as the beautiful Indian warrior was spectacular. Not only is the woman undoubtedly one of the most beautiful to ever grace the silver screen, she has a magnetic presence that automatically draws the audience to her. Best of all, she was totally believable as a warrior. That’s no small feat for someone of her small stature.
Thomas Sangster, as the young Caesar, was also magnetic, as well as thought provoking and courageous. He never lets the audience forget that inside that small body still exists the spirit of a curious but frightened young boy. He also exhibited a remarkable number of layers for someone so young.
I thought the screenplay by Jez and Tom Butterworth was inventive. They may have taken some license with history. They may have even woven together fact and fantasy. But they did it beautifully and made it into a beautiful story that uplifts the heart and the soul.
Doug Lefler’s direction was also outstanding. It was evident that he expected much from his actors and, for the most part, he got exactly what he wanted.
The real star of the film, however, was the cinematography. It was breath taking; from the icy barren region at the beginning of the film to the highlands that represented Britannia. I would gladly watch the film over and over for the photography alone.
Having said all of that, I admit that this film is by no means perfect. I don’t mean to imply that it is. But it is entertaining, beautiful, uplifting and inspirational. In my book, that makes for a good movie. I give it four out of five stars.