Film Review: Pompeii

With lashings of Gladiator-style action and ‘end of the world’ pastiche, Pompeii arrives onscreen with volcanoes blazing. We’re thrown into 1st Century Pompeii, where Celtic horseman-come-slave Milo (Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington) is impressing crowds with his gladiatorial might. On his way to fight in bigger leagues, he meets the beautiful but betrothed Cassia (Sucker Punch’s Emily Browning) who just happens to be the daughter of Pompeii’s leader. Cue the class warfare and romance! Meanwhile, Pompeii is being visited by Rome’s corrupt Senator Corvus (24’s Kiefer Sutherland). Not only is the bloodthirsty Corvus responsible for the death of Milo’s entire tribe, but he is also the abusive fiancé to our heroine Cassia. And if that isn’t enough, well, Mount Vesuvius is ready to turn Pompeii into a fiery soup any minute now. Milo’s duty as a slave forces him to engage in battles with seasoned fighters such as ‘champion’ Atticus (Lost’s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) who he soon is allied with. Atticus is meant to secure his freedom once he wins his next fight, but soon realises the capital will never honour the law. The slaves’ unrest matches that of the people – much of the city of Pompeii looking to somehow push back against Rome’s brutal rule. Pompeii never strays far from its action genre. Indeed, there is always someone to engage in a fight, someone to die dramatically or a volcano to rumble ominously.Director Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil series) shows off his action chops, with his direction particularly effective and interesting within the gladiator arena.The grace and agility showcased in his fight choreography creates a magnetism lacking between Pompeii’s romantic leads. Sure, Harington is suitably brooding and Browning suitably besotted, but that isn’t a proper substitute for a lack of chemistry.This is without mentioning Sutherland’s diabolical Corvus. Whoever thought it was a good idea to give Jack Bauer a shoddy English accent and a weird villainous streak was wrong. Disastrously wrong. The saving grace in all of this volcano-related gloom is Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s stoic yet endearing Atticus. Even though we all know how this ends, we still hope he will be gifted the freedom he deserves. While the storyline is admittedly weak and winding, sometimes a thoughtless action-slash-romance-slash-disaster film is just what you need. The more cynical may cheer for the volcano to quash Pompeii in spectacular fashion, but some will find a timeless quality to the star-crossed lovers’ story. 2½ out of 5 stars Review by Ashleigh McMillan Pompeii is in cinemas from March 20 

March 2nd 2014
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