Only lava's left alive

The idea of taking a contemporary action-thriller plot and planting it under the ashen-grey skies of a deadly volcano in 79 AD is so gloriously stupid that it’s sort of impossible to resist. Sadly, by the end of Pompeii, you may find yourself cheering for the volcano.

Paul W.S. Anderson bashes out this goofy disaster-romance mash-up with such a ruthless, heavy metal artlessness that it makes his popcorn-chomping Resident Evil series look Haneke-esque by comparison. The Titanic-by-way-of-Die Hard plot sees muscle-bound slave turned gladiator Milo (Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington) fall for gorgeous rich girl Cassia (Emily Browning).

After meeting on the roadside and being instantly smitten, Milo is sent to a lavish feast thrown by Cassia’s family. One of the party’s main events is a to-the-death battle between Milo and the reigning gladiator champ, Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).

Also on deck for added intrigue: crooked Roman senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), who just happens to be the evil bastard that slaughtered Milo’s family...

That’s a lot of love, lust and murder for one man to handle, and things get even more complicated when Mount Vesuvius decides to crash the party. Unlike the actual volcano, which smothered the residents of Pompeii under clouds of ash, the cinematic Vesuvius takes a more blockbuster-friendly approach to death: spewing molten missiles at the city in an orgy of fiery destruction.

This alarming new development leaves our hunky hero with the task of having to kill bad guys and find his damsel in distress before he’s swallowed by lava or flash-melted into ash, all while wearing sandals.

Essentially, the entire movie is a delivery system for the CGI-created eruption, which is indeed very impressive. Everything else? Blandly beautiful people and zero emotional involvement. It’s like the world’s longest videogame trailer.


While it offers spectacular CGI devastation and a chiselled hero, Pompeii is so soulless and empty that you won’t shed any tears when the ‘cano blows its top.

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Film Details

User Reviews

    • Jareth64

      Apr 29th 2014, 11:41

      You just know some films are going to be c**p. This was one of them.

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    • diegomorales556

      May 11th 2014, 5:28

      Actually this is another guilty pleasure - sure the story beats are painted with crayons but the action scenes are pretty good and the ending is telegraphed a mile wide but still brought a tear to my eye. This is no worse than some of his other classics Aliens vs Predator, Resident Evil or Soldier.

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    • StrapMouse

      Oct 11th 2014, 15:19


      Having enjoyed all of Paul W.S. Anderson’s films from “Death Race” onwards, I knew Pompeii would be another strong addition to his career, and, as predicted I thoroughly enjoyed this epic film. It doesn’t measure up to other epics such as “Titanic” but its large scope and solid story impresses. A slave called Milo fights to save his true love who is betrothed to a scheming senator whilst the mighty Mount Vesuvius erupts around them, reigning chaos upon the once magnificent city. I couldn’t help but notice a similarity to “Titanic”, that being the situation of a girl being forced into a marriage she is not committed, let alone interested in, determined to escape her planned future. Either way both films handle the storyline well, yet Pompeii plays fast and loose with it, instead focusing on the stronger subplot of Milo who is a slave with extraordinary fighting skills, determined to escape his captivity and free his beloved. I thought the build-up to the eruption was superbly paced, intercutting shots of crumbling ground and tremors echoing through the city, although I would’ve liked it if the characters showed more concern to the strange activity surrounding the mountain. Kit Harrington is good but a bit too similar in performance to his role as Jon Snow in “Game Of Thrones”, but as Milo there’s a bit more romance and desperation involved and that’s where he really shines. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is one of my favourite actors, whether he’s in minor or major roles he compels me and again proves his worth in Pompeii with an authoritative performance as a slave who is promised freedom if he fights his way out. Agbaje actually delivers some humour amongst the chaos and is probably my favourite character here. Emily Browning is believable as Cassia, the city ruler’s daughter. Cassia is strong willed and smart and Browning does a good job portraying a young woman with power in her, and of course she excels when scenes of romance play out. Kiefer Sutherland is clearly having a blast playing the corrupt Senator Corvus, he’s manipulative and evil but a coward. Carrie Anne Moss, Jared Harris and Jessica Lucas are rather underused yet they still deliver strong enough performances to make an impression, but I think the performance everyone wants to hear about is volcano. When the big beasty finally blows its lid the fireworks truly go off setting off a climax filled with tremendous special effects that end the movie with the perfect bang, one you wait for the minute you press play. Paul W.S. Anderson has always been a master at staging action sequences, check out Death Race, Resident Evil Retribution or The Three Musketeers and you’ll see what I mean when it comes to the breakneck pace and hard hitting violence against the backdrop of stunning CGI worlds. Pompeii is no exception, watching these characters stare death in the face as lava and smouldering rocks fall through the sky will leave your jaw agape and eyes widened, the detailed visuals are flawless, especially when the big waves send boats crashing into buildings whisking citizens off their feet. The scale of the eruption matches that of any Michael Bay film, and the last shot of Milo and Cassia embracing each other as the pyroclastic flows soars towards them is heartfelt and powerful accompanied by some terrifically composed music. Pompeii is a spectacular show, critics have ravaged it but I think it’s a spectacular show, an ideal choice for a movie night and one of Anderson’s best films, I just wish I bought it in 3D, but in 2D it still amazes.

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