Court intrigues have seen the past five emperors assassinated over the previous five years and the barbarians are literally at the gates. Following the coronation of the young boy Romulus Augustus (Thomas Sangster) as the new Caesar, the city is overrun by the Goths. Romulus is captured along with his tutor, the wise and wizened Ambrosinus (Ben Kingsley).
The pair is rescued by the Roman commander Aurelius (Colin Firth) and a band of his soldiers. The group heads to Britania where Aurelius hopes to find a long-thought lost garrison of Roman legionnaires and Ambrosinus hopes to find a sword fabled to have belonged to Julius Caesar.
The Last Legion is a rather curious film. It never seems to be ambitious enough or shot with enough scope to feel like an historical epic, nor is it lighthearted enough to be a swashbuckling adventure. Instead, it straddles a rather bland middle ground between the two. Its action scenes are just average, failing to excite on any level and are even further hampered by a tepid music score.
While Firth is a capable dramatic actor, he seems adrift in a more action-oriented role. He does what he can with a romantic subplot involving Aishwarya Rai who plays a beautiful and deadly warrior, but the scenes are so few and slight that they seem grafted onto the film to pad out its running time.
Ultimately, though, The Last Legion is a failed movie, whose failure is compounded by a story twist at the end that one could see coming and as it loomed more inevitable towards the film’s final moments. Without spoiling things to much – though the film’s advertising does not seem to share my concern – it is fairly early in the film when one starts to draw parallels to a certain piece of archetypal folklore. As the movie continues, the creeping suspicion can’t help but grow until by the time the filmmakers actually reveal their intentions, the audience is cringing at the inevitable. Perhaps if the film had been better constructed from the scripting phase on up the ending would have been at least more palatable. As it stands, though, it is two hours in the cinema that one should try to avoid.