out of Five
Running time: 126
Frequently rubbish but nonetheless enjoyable swashbuckler, despite a tendency to take itself a bit too seriously. More fun than King Arthur.
What’s it all about?
Based on a Celtic tale from the Dark Ages, the film stars James Franco as Tristan, the trusted second-in-command of Lard Marke (Rufus Sewell), who is attempting to unify the English tribes and rid England of Irish rule under King Donnchadh (David O’Hara).
After Tristan is poisoned and believed dead in battle, his funeral barge coincidentally washes up in Ireland, where he is nursed back to health by the beautiful Isolde (Sophia Myles), who just happens to be Donnchadh’s daughter. They fall in love, but things get even more complicated when Isolde is married off to Lord Marke in an attempt to make peace between the countries.
Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: The Prince of Thieves) has got form when it comes to this sort of thing and it’s fair to say that the film fares rather better as a swashbuckler than it does as a romance. The swordfights are clearly choreographed and the battle sequences are both inventive and excitingly staged.
There’s also an impressive look to the film, with lots of earthy browns and watery blues and a strong use of wintry coastal landscape.
The performances are something of a mixed bag. Sewell is excellent, giving a conflicted performance that’s probably better than the film deserves. Myles is good too and there’s decent support from Mark Strong, but Franco is far too wooden and seems to have confused moping for acting.
In short, this is enjoyable rubbish that will appeal to fans of swashbucklers whilst appalling both history buffs and literature students in equal measure.
Tristan and Isolde (12A)