Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley lead a strong cast in The Last Legion, a fantasy adventure about Caesar's offspring fleeing Rome for British shores. Firth is general Aurelius, assigned to protect the precious nipper (Thomas Sangster), who's become persona non grata since an uprising in Rome. Fitfully enjoyable action mixes with consistently cheesy dialogue, in a rambling throwback that becomes less compelling as it moves further from history and closer to fantasy and over-familiar legend.
Colin Firth may be marvellous at playing bumbling Brits, but he's the wrong man for the job as a rugged Roman general fending off warriors and romancing exotic maidens. Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai is slightly better cast as the leading exotic maiden, Mira, a feisty swordswoman who gets Aurelius out of a few tight spots. There's some suspense as they launch a rescue mission on the island of Capri, and the odd decent tussle as they escape the rebels to whisk Romulus Augustus off to Britain in search of their only hope: the last legion of soldiers they can count as allies.
"CONTRIVED AND CLICHÈD"
But paper-thin characters, stilted conversations and abrupt editing mean this is hard to get involved with, and its link with Arthurian legend feels contrived and clichéd. As background viewing, The Last Legion is appealingly retro in a sleepy TV Sunday sort of way. But it's hard to think of a reason to shell out for a cinema ticket for something that feels far more suited to the small screen.
The Last Legion is out in the UK on 19th October 2007.