It’s difficult not to admire the pure gusto of a film like Pompeii. The latest from director Paul W.S. Anderson, best known for the Resident Evil franchise, the film combines a sword-and-sandal setting with a romance and a disaster film. Kit Harrington, a fan favorite on HBO’s Game of Thrones, has a starring role as Celtic slave Milo. The film centers on his arrival as a gladiator in Pompeii, just days before the city meets its infamous end.
Milo makes friends with fellow gladiator Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), flashes his smoldering eyes at Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of Pompeii’s leader, and attempts to avenge his family against the priggish Senator Corvus (Keifer Sutherland). He’s a pretty busy guy in the few days before the eruptions of Vesuvius, and the film rushes between several storylines in an attempt to fit them all in.
The breakneck pace works to the film’s advantage, giving it a sense of propulsion that wouldn’t be evident in the story itself. Undeniably, it helps that the audience knows there is a ticking clock, unnaturally fueling the tension and making that first spew of molten lava from the summit of Vesuvius a rare cathartic explosion (Freud would have a field day with this film).
If taken in the proper spirit, there is a lot of fun to be had with Pompeii. It’s not a film to be taken seriously, and though Harrington and Browning are bland as leads, Kiefer Sutherland’s performance is full of bravado and the film delivers on destruction of epic proportions. I am not sure how much of film is truly intended to be comedic, but if taken as such, the film is thoroughly entertaining.
Pompeii opens today in Philly area theaters.