The proud Celt, Milo (Kit Harington), captured in Brittania by Romans, now a slave turned gladiator in 79 A.D., Pompeii, finds himself in a race against time to save his true love, Cassia (Emily Browning), who has been unwillingly betrothed to corrupt Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland). As Mount Vesuvius erupts in a torrent of blazing lava and brimstone, Milo must fight his way out of the arena in order to save Cassia as the once magnificent Pompeii crumbles around him.
Review by Louise Keller:
Barbaric brutality, an impossible love affair and the fiery eruption of Mount Vesuvius are the elements of Paul W. S. Anderson's Pompeii, a predictable and melodramatic disaster movie in 3D that feels derived rather than fresh, cheesy instead of thrilling and earnest rather than dramatic. In order words, it's a big-budget Hollywood B-movie that relies on its toys - namely special effects - as well as its central love story to satisfy its undemanding young male audience. Unfortunately this is not an adaptation of Robert Harris' same-named book, or a companion piece to Gladiator, but a commercial swords and sandals extravaganza that relies on its burning ash-ridden climactic sequence to provide its hook and spectacle.
After a clunky prologue in which the barbaric nature of Kiefer Sutherland's Roman senator Corvus is shown when he orders the brutal and callous massacre of a whole town, the story jumps by 17 years to 79 A.D. History lovers will know that this is the year that Pompeii was buried under a mass of hot volcanic ash. The young Celtic boy who witnessed the slaying of his family is now a slave with rippling muscles and is let loose in the gladiator arena. Played by Game of Thrones star Kit Harington, with his monotonic, intense sullen expression, Harington's heroic Milo readily flaunts his pecs and displays his magnetism for women - or at least for diminutive Emily Browning as Cassia, who has eyes for no-one but him after he displays his Horse Whisperer skills. And then there is The Kiss between the lovers - when the earth moves in more ways than one.
Sutherland, looking and sounding more and more like his father, is deliciously evil and real sparks are exchanged in the scenes between Corvus and the feisty Cassia, whose principles are as high as the ominous shadow of Mount Vesuvius that looms above. Best of all is the relationship between Milo and his new cell-mate Atticus, Pompeii's gladiator champion, charismatically played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, with the rich, booming James Earl Jones-like voice. Thrown together as deadly opponents in a fight to the death in the stadium before a blood-thirsty crowd, it is a clever twist in scripting that allows them the opportunity to respect and help one another in their individual journeys. Atticus wants to die a free man, while Milo sees Cassia as his destiny.
The first hour acts as a preamble to the giant fireworks, when the gods make known their plan and Vesuvius starts to spew its fiery display amid billowing smoke. In order to squeeze as much juice as possible from it, the eruption takes place at a critical life and death moment during swordplay in the stadium and columns, pillars and major structures crumble. It certainly ends with a bang, although the foreplay leaves a lot to be desired.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A dumbed down / pumped up story set against the historic eruption of Mount Vesuvius, this is a movie for undiscerning audiences keen to see a multiplicity of disasters unfurling around a slight romance - and some swordplay. Not satisfied with a roaring volcanic eruption, the filmmakers add fire & brimstone, an earthquake or three and a tsunami to the disaster menu.
The bitter rivalry between Rome and provincial Pompeii serves to fuel the dastardly actions of Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), who has arrived to witness the Lavinius games, in which slave gladiators slaughter each other. His disdain for the place is such he even refers to it as 'a holiday resort' which jars a little given the setting is 79 AD. But then much of the dialogue is wooden and out of kilter with the circumstances/setting, and not even this high calibre cast can rescue it.
Corvus serves as the all rounder villain: he not only swaggers hideously and plunders what he can, he wants to plunder unwilling Cassia (Emily Browning) as his wife, and forces her parents Severus (Jared Harris) and Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss) to accede on pain of being betrayed to the nasty Emperor Titus in Rome.
But Cassia has set her eyes and heart on the lowly slave Milo (Kit Harington) who - in an improbable scene early on - tends kindly to a stricken horse, which was drawing her carriage from rotten Rome to her pleasing Pompeii home.
The love triangle thus established, the villain is further embellished by having as his henchman the very soldier, Proculus (Sahsa Roiz), who, in front of a toddler Milo, savagely murdered his family, back in his Celtic homeland.
To balance things out somewhat, Milo is a fierce fighter, which attracts the commercial interests of the gamesmaster Graecus (Joe Pingue) who pits him against Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) the triple A rated champ. Heroic struggles ensue. (NB Do not attempt to use this film as infotainment about the terrible natural disaster of Vesuvius; for that, read the marvellous historical novel, Pompeii, by Robert Harris.)
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CAST: Kit Harington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kiefer Sutherland, Jessica Lucas, Rebecca Eady, Paz Vega
PRODUCER: Paul W. S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Don Carmody, Robert Kulzer, Martin Moskovicz
DIRECTOR: Paul W. S. Anderson
SCRIPT: Janet Scott Betchler, Lee Batchler, Julian Fellowes, Michael Robert Johnson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Glen MacPherson
MUSIC: Clinton Shorter
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paul D. Austerberry
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 20, 2014