Imagine the near-legendary fall of Pompeii; as a city in ancient Rome thrives quietly, the nearby “mountain” rumbles ominously. Mount Vesuvius’ notorious eruption simultaneously solidified Pompeii and its inhabitants in history as one of the largest recorded eruptions. However, the film inserts a fictitious romance into the history of Pompeii.
The film’s plot juxtaposes the infamous tragedy of Pompeii’s destruction with a blooming relationship between a young gladiator, Milo, played by Kit Harington, and the beautiful princess of Pompeii, Cassia, played by Emily Browning.
Milo represents an embattled gladiator, both literally and figuratively. Bitter over his family’s death at the hands of the Roman Empire, he lives as a Roman slave and is forced to fight to the death against other slaves.
Milo’s cynical and despondent view of the world changes in an instant upon seeing the princess of Pompeii for the first time. He immediately becomes enamored by her regal beauty and devotes his whole attention towards wooing her.
His previously purposeless fighting finds focus in his love for Cassia.
As the time winds down until Mount Vesuvius erupts, Milo’s fight for Cassia’s affection against a wayward Roman Senator, Proculus, played by Sasha Roiz, intensifies. Proculus feels entitled to Cassia’s hand in marriage and, upon learning of her infatuation with Milo, plots Milo’s demise. The film reaches its climax when the volcano begins to belch its fire and ash. Milo must choose to flee the city in an effort to save himself and guarantee his freedom, or search for Cassia and escape together.
Harington and Browning’s acting steals the show in this film. Each scene takes the audience deeper into their complicated love, underscoring the rigidity of the ancient Roman social structure. Milo and Cassia’s love is forbidden because of Milo’s low status as a slave, but this hardly slows their whirlwind romance. Milo pushes all boundaries and risks his life to spend mere minutes with the princess on numerous occasions. The strong performance of these two actors adds a convincing dimension of romance and brings the story of these unlikely lovers to life.
If nothing else in this film captivates the audience, the film’s cinematography alone will have you hooked. Shot in 3D and reinforced with the sharp clarity of the picture, the film succeeds both aesthetically and thematically.
The film’s superb imagery catapults it above the fray, setting it far apart from other new releases.
From stunning shots of the Roman countryside to the city’s fiery collapse of apocalyptic proportions, both the characters and viewers alike wonder if Roman gods have some hand in the film’s events.
Reviving an ancient story and humanizing the inhabitants of Pompeii casts a novel light on this point in history. The acting, cinematography and plot coalesce to provide audiences with action and love in a way only ancient tragedy can.
Entertaining and evocative, this film surprisingly succeeds, remedying reservations and exceeding expectations.