Pompeii (2014)

Photo Source: Wikipedia

Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson (1)

Cast: Kit Harington (2), Emily Browning (3), Carrie-Anne Moss (4), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (5), Jessica Lucas (6), Jared Harris (7), Kiefer Sutherland (8), and Sasha Roiz (9)

My favourite quote – “For those of us about to die. We salute you! I die a free man!”

A sudden realisation of the immense force and power of nature hit me when I came face to face with these when touring the ruins of Pompeii.

The story of Pompeii has always fascinated me. So when my mum and I started planning our Europe trip in 2011, I wanted a tour that included the ruins of Pompeii.

It was only when I saw casts of the victims of Mount Vesuvius’ AD 79 eruption at modern day Pompeii did I realised the tragedy and the infinite sadness about that day in AD 79.

In 2014, when the film Pompeii was released, I was eager to watch it. However, I couldn’t find anyone to watch it with me. Everyone didn’t feel the need to watch a film in which they already knew the ending to.

But I find that logic flawed. Sometimes it’s not about the end result, it’s about the journey. We all know what happened to the Titanic. We suspected the doomed fates of lovers Jack and Rose. And yet, people still flocked to watch the film.

You came back for me.
– Cassia

In Pompeii, the scene when Milo, the male lead character played by Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harington, risked his life and ran towards danger to save Emily Browning’s Cassia, I was reminded of the scene in Titanic when Rose runs to find Jack who was cuffed to the pipes.

It’s the same idea really. Pompeii’s doomed star-crossed lovers is gladiator, Milo, and rich upper class lady, Cassia. In Titanic, it was poor painter, Jack Dawson, and upper class lady, Rose DeWitt Bukater. Both fictional couples were weaved into a tragic historical moment in time.

I suppose the doomed nature of their love makes it all the more romantic.

Milo: You have to ride him out of here.
Cassia: No!
Milo: He’s not fast enough. He can’t carry us both! Go!
Cassia: No, I won’t leave you!
Milo: We don’t have a choice.
(Cassie lets the horse gallop off alone)
Cassia: Run! Go! (to Milo) I don’t want to spend our last moments running.
Milo: Don’t look. Look at me. Just me.

The fact that she chose to stay and die with him is very touching. And I love the way he makes her focus on him rather on their impending doom.

The last visual of Milo and Cassia being enveloped by the hot pyroclastic flow as they kiss is the reason why I like this film. This scene makes the film for me. Not because they kissed. Seeing their carbonized bodies, locked in an eternal embrace, really makes me feel the depth of their emotions and feelings for each other. Coupled by the fact that I’ve actually seen replicas of some of these carbonized bodies in Pompeii, this slow reveal of their bodies makes the story feel real to me. Like there could actually be two bodies locked in an embrace just like them in real life, locked in one a room in Italy.

In fact, did you know that these two characters are actually inspired by real people? Director Paul W. S. Anderson drew inspiration from plaster casts of the “twin lovers” of Pompeii.

Free Men

For those of us about to die. We salute you! I die a free man!
– Atticus

The film Pompeii wasn’t just about the obliteration of the city. It tried to show us how it affected, or could have affected, the citizens of Pompeii and those who were present at the time.

I initially found it strange that after seeing a ground littered with carbonized people we were transported to Northern Britannia. Only later did I realise it was the back story for the male lead Milo.

Milo is from a tribe of Celtic horsemen. When he was a young boy, he witnessed his entire tribe being slaughtered by Romans led by Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland). The young boy is then captured by slave traders and eventually grows up and is forced to be a gladiator.

Gladiator. Defined on the free online dictionary as…

1. A person, usually a professional combatant, a captive, or a slave, trained to entertain the public by engaging in mortal combat with another person or a wild animal in the ancient Roman arena.
2. A person engaged in a controversy or debate, especially in public; a disputant.
3. Sports A professional boxer.
4. A prizefighter.

I abhor the idea of slavery and think that people who work in the service industry should be treated with as much respect as other human beings. Their profession or station in life doesn’t mean that they deserve less or can be mistreated.

As such, I really liked that the film showed that some of these gladiators had more valour and moral character than the military men in the film.

Cassia: Fifteen lashes and he didn’t make a sound. I could have prevented this. I don’t know what I was thinking.
Ariadne: That he made you feel alive?
Cassia: He made me feel safe. A man like that does not deserve to die in the arena.

These men do not “deserve to die in the arena” because “men killing each other for our amusement is not a sport.” I must say that Emily Browning’s Cassia is quite a modern woman in her manner of thinking. For her time that is.

Corvus: Lady Cassia. Come sit beside me. Give me the benefit of your wisdom. Do you enjoy the sports?
Cassia: Men killing each other for our amusement is not a sport.

Overall, the topic of freedom and the importance of dying a free man really struck a chord with me.

Brotherhood

It also fascinated me to see the strong bonds of brotherhood shared between the two gladiators – Atticus and Milo. They did not know each other long, but their shared fates and strength of character made them fast friends.

Atticus: Where are you going?
Milo: I have to find her.
Atticus: Milo, this is madness! We have to get to the harbor and find a boat. The mountain is going to kill us all!
Milo: She risked her life for me, Atticus. Risked everything for me! Without her, they would have killed us in that arena!
Atticus: Then we will go together.
Milo: No. You have your freedom, my friend. She is mine.
Atticus: Then we meet at the harbor.
Milo: At the harbor.

There’s a Chinese idiom that perhaps explains this best – 不打不相識 (bù dǎ bù xiāng shí). It you look at it literally, it means if you don’t fight, you’re not friends. But what it’s trying to say is that friendship can be born out of a disagreement or a fight.

And that’s what happened between Milo and Atticus.

Honestly, I wasn’t too impressed with the characters of the film and the story. I felt that the film tried to do too much in a short span of time. I did enjoy the fact that there were little words spoken between Milo and Atticus and Milo and Cassia. It really practiced the concept of “show don’t tell” when it came to the characters of the film.

However, I am impressed by the portrayal of the destruction of the city of Pompeii. It felt like I was there. At the mercy of Mount Vesuvius. If anything, watch the film to appreciate the power and destruction the people of Pompeii could have experienced. It will allow you to better appreciate a visit to the ruins of Pompeii I’m sure.

(1) Paul W. S. Anderson has directed films like Mortal Kombat (1995), Event Horizon (1997), Resident Evil (2002), Alien vs. Predator (2004), Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010), The Three Musketeers (2011), and Resident Evil: Retribution (2012).

(2) Kit Harington currently plays the role of Jon Snow in the television series Game Of Thrones (2011-present) and has also acted in the film Seventh Son (2015). He’s also voiced the character of Eret in How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014).

(3) Emily Browning has acted in films like Ned Kelly (2003), Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events (2004), Sucker Punch (2011), Sleeping Beauty (2011), The Host (2013),and Legend (2015).

(4) Carrie-Anne Moss has acted in films like The Matrix (1999), Chocolat (2000), Red Planet (2000), Memento (2000), The Matrix Reloaded (2003), and The Matrix Revolutions (2003).

(5) Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje has acted in films like Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995), The Mummy Returns (2001), The Bourne Identity (2002), Unstoppable (2004), The Mistress of Spices (2005), G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra (2009), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Annie (2014), and Suicide Squad (2016). He is also known for playing the role of Mr. Eko in Lost (2005-2006) and playing Malko in Game of Thrones (2015).

(6) Jessica Lucas has acted in films like She’s the Man (2006), Cloverfield (2008), and That Awkward Moment (2014). She also played the character of Ronnie Lake in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2007), Riley Richmond in Melrose Place (2009-2010), and Riley Elliott in Friends With Benefits (2011).

(7) Jared Harris has acted in films like Ocean’s Twelve (2004), Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008), Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (2011), Lincoln (2012), The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones (2013), and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015). He is known for playing the role of Lane Pryce in Mad Men (2009-2012) and has appeared in television series like Without a Trace, Law & Order: SVU, and Fringe.

(8) Kiefer Sutherland is known for playing the role of Jack Bauer on the television series 24 (2001-2010). He has also acted in films like A Few Good Men (1992), The Three Musketeers (1993), Phone Booth (2003), and Melancholia (2011). He’s also voiced the character of Bron (Littlefoot’s father) in he Land Before Time X (2003) and the character of Gen. Warren R. Monger in Monsters vs. Aliens (2009).

(9) Sasha Roiz currently plays the role of Captain Sean Renard in the television series Grimm (2011-present) and has appeared in television series like has acted in films like NCIS, CSI: Miami, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Lie To Me, The Mentalist, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, House, Castle, Warehouse 13, and Husbands.

Final Thoughts:

I had a tough time deciding what was my favourite quote of the movie. Usually I have a tough time deciding because there are too many to choose from. But this time, it was the opposite. I couldn’t decide because I couldn’t put my finger on what the film was trying to put across and what affected me most. The messages didn’t really pack a punch. Was it about a love so strong that the film’s star-crossed lovers would sacrifice their lives for just one moment together? Or about the equality of men and the fight for freedom? Or just a beautiful display of the power of nature? The acting wasn’t horrid, but it wasn’t anything to shout about. The romance and bromance resonated a little too late, when time was limited; leaving me wanting and unsatisfied. But as mentioned earlier, it is a splendid display of nature’s wrath and power. I will never look at another volcano the same way again. (2 of 5)

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2 responses to “Pompeii (2014)

  1. Pingback: Display of Genius at Bodleian Library | litadoolan·

  2. Pingback: Crowd Funding for StartingBloc Fellowship | shivansh chaudhary·

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