Pompeii is a well known disaster location, courtesy of an erupting volcano called Vesuvius. Its not surprising then that an action film has know been based (loosely) around the event.
Which brings me to this review of the 2014 film Pompeii. Its billed as a historical disaster, which is pretty accurate. It also has quite an intriguing storyline, and an impressive cast.
It begins showing pompeii casts from the actual disaster, and reflections on the devastation looking back. Then we jump back to the year 62AD. Its a settlement of celts, who are savagely murdered by the Romans. This particular pack of blood thirsty Roman soldiers headed up by the always impressive Kiefer Sutherland who plays Corvus. This man has to possess the single most blood curdling voice ever.
Back to the plot. All the celts are killed, except a small boy. He is later captured by slave traders, and grows up to be the most epic fighter. The little boy is named Milo, and is played by Kit Harrington. I had never heard of him, but this boy sports a serious physique. I've later learned he starred in Game of Thrones, and also How to Train Your Dragon 2.
His road leads him to be bought to Pompeii to fight. At this point, its reminiscent of Gladiator, which is no bad thing and perhaps hard to avoid given the similarities - vile Romans, honourable Gladiator slaves etc.. Said slave meets the beautiful Cassia when her horse falls. He is gentle with the injured horse, but possesses the strength to put it out of its misery. She is instantly attracted to him, a fact noticed at one by her lady servant Ariadne.
Cassia is returning to Pompeii from Rome, to her parents, city ruler Severus and his wife. His wife played by Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity off the Matrix). Severus hopes to do business with Rome, and shortly after her return, Corvus makes an appearance in Pompeii. It appears it is he and not the Emperor who wishes to do business in Pompeii. However, it soon becomes clear that its not just Severus business he wants - he wants Cassia too, and was the reason for her leaving Rome.
At the gladiator arena, Cassia once again sees Milo and allows him to help settle the horses. The horses have picked up on the tension from the about to erupt volcano. He takes Cassia out on the horse, but they realise they cannot escape and Cassia lies to save Milo's life. Corvus though, makes her pay for her betrayal in refusing his offer of marriage and has him whipped.
Milo and the reigning slave gladiator Atticus look set to fight to the death. However, when deals are done to sacrifice them both, they form an uneasy allegiance. The next day, it seems Milo was right Milo and Atticus manage to survive the supposed re-enactment of the Celts massacre by Corvus. As they battle and win their victory Corvus quips that he doesn't recall it happening this way.
Corvus backs Severus into a corner, and he has to agree to Cassia's hand in marriage against her will. As the fighting continues in the arena, he blackmails Cassia's father. Milo and Atticus win against the odds, but it is down to Corvus to decide their fate. Before he can raise or lower his thumb, Cassia once again saves Milo's life by raising hers. Corvus, angered by her defiance, sends her to the villa whilst he remains at the arena.
The volcano begins to rumble the ground beneath them, as cracks begin to appear in the arena. This is where the likeness to Gladiator ends - there are no volcanoes in Gladiator! Corvus, unsatisfied with the victory of Milo orders a one on one battle between Milo and his number one Roman officer Proculus. As they battle, Vesuvius erupts, clearing her throat at first, then more violently. The arena begins to collapse, and the fighters fall into the chambers beneath as people are crushed by the collapsing building.
Proculus escapes as Milo unleashes the rest of the slaves. Corvus and Severus are both pinned beneath debris. Severus wife, badly injured, urges him to kill Corvus whilst he has the chance. Corvus though, realises what is happening, and it is Severus who is killed, lying side by side with his wife as ash begins to fall upon them.
The eruption is wild now - fireballs and molten rock setting fires all around Pompeii. The people desperately try to flee to the boats in the harbour. Many are struck, and sink, and the rest are swept up in a huge Tsunami caused by the eruption.
Atticus and Milo have survived, but Milo goes to rescue Cassia. They go their separate ways, and Milo finds and rescues Cassia. They head back to the arena to get the horses to try and escape, reuniting with Atticus who has realised there is no way out. The gladiators fight with the Romans who Corvus has placed at the arena, as Cassia goes to see to her parents, realising they are dead.
As she does, Corvus captures her. Milo takes chase as Corvus takes Cassia in a chariot. Atticus faces Proculus and the two fight to the death. Atticus is badly hurt, but rises up and kills Proculus. He remains at the arena and welcomes oncoming death as a free man. Think Braveheart here.
Milo and Corvus fight one another, as Cassia frees herself from the chariot before it crashes. Avoiding fireballs and falling debris they fight on. Cassia sneaks up and chains Corvus wrist to the wall, pinning him there. Rather than kill him, Milo tells him his gods are coming for him. He and Cassia take the horse and escape.
As they put some distance between them and the oncoming flow of lava and fire, the horse throws them. Milo tells Cassia to get back on, take the horse on her own and go, telling her the horse is not strong or fast enough for them both. She refuses, and slaps the horse, leaving the together. Milo takes her in his arms and kisses her, telling her not to look at the pyroclastic cloud washes over them.
The film ends with a 360 degree view of Milo and Cassia carbonised by the heat still in their last embrace, locked their forever.
In summary, this was enjoyable. However, be warned for some seriously dodgy dialogue and some very hammy acting. A very pretty and aesthetically pleasing cast go some way towards making this more enjoyable and off-set some of the cheesier moments. Its not exactly deep, clearly has taken huge influence from other big blockbuster period films before it, but because of the disaster element, its actually good fun.
I usually am a big "weepy" type, not even as a result of anything particularly deep - even adverts can set me off on occasion, but I found I didn't much care that they didn't survive rather than being inclined to even feel sad, which is a shame as I did quite enjoy this. The characters just weren't given enough depth to get to know them.
All in all, if you like disaster movies, and you like kind of period piece that means you do get to see the lovely cast looking buff and/or pretty, then check it out. If you prefer a meatier script and deep and meaningful plot lines, then give it a wide steer.
I would give this a 6 out of 10 mainly based on the volcanoes starring role. Let me know what you think.
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