Tristan and Isolde (12A)

ANDREW CLARKE Part Romeo and Juliet, part King Arthur, part Kingdom of Heaven, Tristan anda Isolde is a film that has a lot going for it: action, romance, betrayal, some impressive set pieces, fabulous photography and powerful performances.

ANDREW CLARKE

Part Romeo and Juliet, part King Arthur, part Kingdom of Heaven, Tristan and Isolde is a film that has a lot going for it: action, romance, betrayal, some impressive set pieces, fabulous photography and powerful performances. And yet... there's something missing - pace.

All the ingredients are correct for a stunning period romantic drama, but there is just too much of everything. Director Kevin Reynolds, the man who gave us Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, tries to cram a lot of background and character detail into the film, which normally would be a good thing, but he's not been disciplined enough.

Over-burdened with information the film sags terribly particularly in the middle when James Franco moons around mourning the fact that his love has been married off to his step-father Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell).

Sadly, the film lacks a real star name in the lead to match the power of supporting performances. James Franco is fine as a supporting player in Spider-Man but he's not up to the task of playing a charismatic knight in the English Dark Ages.

At times he's overpowered by Sewell as united England's first King and Mark Strong as the pretender to the throne. Sophia Myles is also a strong presence in the film but struggles to make anything of her woefully underwritten character. She also has a struggle to make sense of some very 21st-century viewpoints with regard to her role as the daughter of King Donnchadh of Ireland.

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Although she tries hard, there doesn't seem to be much spark between her and Franco and to be honest, she looks much happier snuggled up to smouldering Rufus Sewell.

The highlights of the film are the stunning action scenes and the spot-on production design which incorporates run-down Roman ruins with the start of the wood and stone forts which came to characterise the Middle Ages.

If the visuals look good then we will gloss over the actual history depicted in the movie. It comes as news to me that the English were ever ruled by the Irish. But, hey, let's not let the truth get in the way of telling a good story.

Tristan + Isolde has all the elements of a great period romp but needs sharpening up. Had 20 minutes been taken out of the running time, then we might have had another Gladiator on our hands.

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