I usually don’t like films that contain battle scenes, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to watch Doug Lefler’s 2007 screening of Valerio Massimo Manfredi’s novel The Last Legion. This adventure/ fantasy film stars Colin Firth as Roman general Aurelius, Sir Ben Kingsley as Ambrosinus and Merlin, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Mira and Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Emperor Romulus Augustus.
As you probably guessed from the title or you already know, the film is about the fall of the Western Roman Empire mixed with fantastic elements that announce the Arthurian Legend. In short, after losing both his parents in Odoacer’s invasion of Rome, the newly crowned emperor Romulus Augustus is exiled to Capri along with his Druid tutor – a magician called Ambrosinus. The Druid knows the legend of Julius Caesar’s lost sword and the prophecy that comes with it, therefore he guides Romulus where to look for it and the boy finds it in a secret chamber of Emperor Tiberius’ Villa. The two are rescued by a few men of General Aurelius’s Nova Invicta Legion, whose duty was to protect the very young emperor and who survived the barbarians’ attack of Rome, and a mysterious agent sent from Constantinople, who will reveal one’s self as an Indian female warrior. After Aurelius finds out about the Senate’s and Constantinople’s betrayal, he accepts Ambrosinus’ suggestion and they flee to the Province of Britannia, where they ally with the remaining soldiers of the Ninth Legion (The Dragon Legion) and fight both against the tyrannical Anglo-Saxon ruler Vortygen and the Goths, who wanted to capture Romulus and take hold of Caesar’s sword.
This film is about surviving through the turmoil of history, about man’s thirst for power and blood, but also about honour and friendship if we think about the bounds between Romulus and his tutor, Romulus and Aurelius, Aurelius and Mira and so on. The storyline is dynamic, making you wonder what happens next, while the special effects add a fantastic layer to the film along with the visual quality.
To end the review here, I would like to add that even though the film is just partially based on the novel, I personally enjoyed watching The Last Legion because of the things mentioned above, but also due to my love for history and legends. The plot combined with the surprising epilogue made me long for the Old English legends.
by Alina Andreea Cătărău