Director: Paul W.S. Anderson – Starring: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Carrie-Anne Moss, Kiefer Sutherland, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jared Harris
Spoiler alert: Pompeii gets destroyed by a Volcano at the end of this movie and everyone is wiped out!
OK that’s not really a spoiler – the story of Pompeii’s demise is one of the most famous incidents in ancient history, thanks in no small part to the bodies of the victims, frozen in time as statues, preserved by the molten lava. Exhibitions of these bodies and other Pompeii relics regularly tour the world, ensuring that the story endures. Couple this with the fact that swords and sandals epics have become huge in the past decade, and director Anderson would appear to have the ultimate disaster movie on his hands.
Throw in super hot Game of Thrones star Harington and bums are pretty much guaranteed on seats. He takes on the role of Milo, the only survivor of a tribe of Celtic horsemen wiped out by the Romans, who is now a slave. He manages to catch the attention of Cassia (Browning) daughter of the city ruler, Servus (Harris) when he puts a horse out of it’s misery after a fall. Unfortunately, city senator Corvus (Sutherland) has earmarked her as his bride, and in engaging with her, Milo incurs his wrath. Sent to almost certain death in the gladiator arena, everything turns on its head when Mount Vesuvius begins to erupt, allowing the gladiators to escape. However, Corvus has captured Cassia, and Milo must give chase amid the chaos and fireballs falling from the sky to try to rescue her.
It is impossible to watch this film without a sense of inevitability. Much like Titanic, you know how it ends, and are waiting to see how it is handled. Thankfully, Anderson has done a spectacular job with the actual disaster itself. Vesuvius’ eruption is suitably horrifying and beautiful in equal measure. They have perfectly captured the eruption in all its aggressive glory.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the story surrounding this. The rich girl/poor boy story has been done a million times before (including in Titanic) and it has been done with more depth and feeling. Anderson has assembled a very good-looking cast which should draw in audiences, but their sheer beauty gets in the way of the story somewhat.
Akinnuoye-Agbaje as gladiator Atticus does indeed give a powerful performance, but others in the cast ham it up – especially Sutherland, who seems to be trying to channel Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator, but ends up more Kenneth Williams in Carry on Cleo. His character should have a powerful overriding passion, if we are to believe that he would cling to his beliefs at the cost of missing the chance of escape from the volcano, but Sutherland really fails to convey this. They are not helped by stilted and clichéd dialogue.
This could have been Gladiator meets Titanic, but it lacks the emotional depth of either of those movies. Despite this, the ending has a certain poignancy, and will affect you somewhat. This is definitely worth sitting through if only for the amazing spectacle of the volcano’s eruption.
In cinemas now