Co-produced by the famed DeLaurentiis family, this film puts a new spin on a beloved and extremely popular legend.
In a flashback sequence, a young boy named Romulus (Thomas Sangster), is accompanied by his teacher, Ambrosinus (Ben Kingsley), to some kind of outdoor marketplace in Ancient Rome. He encounters Aurelius (Colin Firth), a Commander in the Roman army. While Romulus just wants to hold and admire Aurelius’ sword, the gruff commander rebuffs him. Unbeknownst to Aurelius, he just insulted the soon-to-be coronated Caesar.
A tribe of barbarians (identified as the Goths here), led by Odoacer (Peter Mullan), decide to infiltrate the kingdom, killing Romulus’ parents. Leaving the new Caesar orphaned doesn’t faze any of them. Their thoughts are that the age and naivety of the Caesar guarantees a victory. As you would probably expect, there’s some double-crossing going on!!
Romulus is imprisoned in a palace on a remote island, guarded by Odoacer’s chief henchman Wulfila (Kevin McKidd). It’s there that Ambrosinus tells him that an important “birthright” of his is in the building. He goes to retrieve a beautifully crafted sword, “to be carried by the one who was destined to rule” (from a similar line that comes up frequently in the film). Ambrosinus himself is an enigma in his own right. Branded in the chest with a pentacle, his own past and connection to the entire story is revealed throughout this film.
The other central character is Mira (Aishwarya Rai). She’s one ruthless warrior, who can definitely hold her own against the men in battle. Initially brought in as an ally, she does show her soft side, as Romulus considers her a maternal figure. There is also a budding romance between her and Aurelius.
Back to the plot: the whole lot ends up traveling to Britannia (Ancient England), where it is rumored that a group of expatriate Roman military resides. All of them hope to band together with the expatriates and fight against the Goths.
When all is said and done, the young Romulus pitches the sword, where it is sheathed in an enormous boulder. We are then whisked to the film’s “present day,” where all of it is tied together. Unless you have lived in a cave, you have probably already figured out the identity of several of the central characters, including an inanimate object.
Generally, I thought it was pretty good. What really pleased me was the mini Trainspotting reunion (Kevin McKidd and Peter Mullan starred as Tommy and “Mother Superior”/Swanney, respectively)! Film purists will see some definite similarities to Gladiator. While I don’t think it will end up as a highly-regarded picture, going to see this wouldn’t be a bad way to spend a lazy afternoon.
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