Set in the days leading up to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, a slave on a ship heading for Naples works to get home to save the woman he loves and his best friend, a gladiator trapped inside the city’s coliseum.
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[REVIEW] 90/100 - POMPEII (Anderson, 2014)
Paul W.S. Anderson rejects history and unapologetically creates a fictional story which constantly makes reference to its own artificiality. Affective images (emotionally affecting stills), saturated colours, and the hyperbolization of reality are features of its imaginative aesthetic, of a unique and auteur-driven vision of a fictional world:
"Ok guys, we have a badass volcano explosion. BASED ON A TRUE STORY. Let's spice it up... Ok let's mix the new guy from GoT with the old man from 24, sweet generational conflict, and that funny and great guy from Oz. Oh, and the dude from Mad Men, he dies anyway. Then fireballs, tsunami, 256 slow motion shots, a strange fascination for horses and a PG-13 violence level... CUT. We're good, mates"
Before the excess of the Earth, of which all are intimately a part, we are made equal. There is a democracy of the terrestrial, and W.S. faces the catastrophic power that makes it so with great compassion and love. Pompeii is profoundly melancholic, but it defiantly refuses nihilistic despair. I was humbled by this film.
James Cameron can only dream of composing in 3D like W.S. does. It's not just about getting images to pop-out of a screen, but about spaces, movement, light, smoke, ash, and fire; all notes in a crescendo of widespread destruction, and ultimately, the tragedy(/immortality) of a few. A beautiful piece of 21st Century filmmaking.
The last two shots: W.S. moves from a classical romantic painting in motion to perhaps the most ecstatic of abstract imagery in a single shot, and then out of nowhere moves to the so shockingly conceptual yet so utterly affirmative of final images in the history of movies. A total masterwork by one of the greatest artists in this medium ever.
For those that needed proof that Kit Harington cannot act to save his life, or that Paul Anderson is unable to not only cast a single role properly, but direct any action sequence outside of fast-paced close-ups, or that writing dialogue is a dying art. Honestly, the special effects were really fun at times, and the ending was enjoyably over-the-top romantic. But, go watch Gladiator instead.
*Goes in expecting swords, sandals & soap opera—Gets Melancholia: The 1st Century Prequel*. Aerial shots repeatedly portray humanity as ants in the shadow of Vesuvius's looming boot. Political & familial institutions, rote revenge tropes soon scatter into ash. Romance's unerring ability to transcend time, the body, the elements, is forever etched in stone in a final scene to end all final scenes. A near masterpiece.