Tristan & Isolde
James Franco, Sophia Myles, Rufus Sewell
Directed By:
Kevin Reynolds

Marketed as another Romeo and Juliet, Tristan & Isolde is based loosely on a folk tale love story found in books, such as Romance of Tristan and Iseult. The story tells of the early days of Britain, where the land is divided between the many tribes and struggling to survive the brutal hand of the Irish King. With the usual Braveheart flair, the film begins with a young Tristan witnessing the massacre of his family and finding himself under the care of Lord Marke (Sewell). Years later, Tristan (Franco) falls in battle and is believed to be dead. When his body is discovered on the beach by Isolde (Myles), he is nursed back to health.

Once returned to his home, Tristan joins in a tournament by the Irish King to wed his daughter to one of the English Lords. When he is victorious, he discovers that he has won Isolde for his adopted father and must live with the fact that the woman he loves is to be married to a man he deeply respects. Between the affair and secrecy of their love and the double-crossing of the Irish, the film climaxes in a violent conflict.

Cast-wise, there are some good performances to be found here, even if they do dip into the genre standards. Franco plays the moody lover well, so much so that I really would have liked to see how he would have fared as the role of Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars prequels). Sewell is, as always, excellent. Myles is serviceable as her love-torn female lead, though she doesn't stand out in a role that was done better by the likes of Catherine McCormack (Braveheart). A lot of the secondary cast do a great job in what little time they have.

Sets and costumes for Tristan & Isolde are suitably rustic and seem to fit the time period well. Or at least they're believable in their presentation. With the lush way that the film is shot, many of the locations don't have to be overly detailed, because the visual ambiance does a lot of work for them. Director Kevin Reynolds has benefited from having some nice set locations to work with, making a lot of the exterior shots work nicely within the body of the story.

As stated before, Tristan & Isolde does use the Braveheart formula a little too much. Also, the plot is pretty predictable and blunt in delivery. You can pretty much tell who is going to betray who and even by what means. Yes, the weasel-like black haired conniver is going to betray Lord Marke. If you can overlook these plot devices, the balance of action and romance is pretty even and I would say makes this film a good choice for a popcorn-munching date flick. If you're looking for some wonderful time-period masterpiece, though, you may just have to stick with PBS as this one has got enough Hollywood in it to make it accessible.

- - Vane

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