DVD
Tristan & Isolde

Starring: James Franco, Sophia Myles and Rufus Sewell
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: 17.99
2867001000
Certificate: 12
Available 11 September 2006


Following the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain, the indigenous population have reasserted their tribal ways. Divided amongst themselves, and at war with Ireland, Tristan is born into a world of conflict. After his parents are killed in an Irish raid he is taken in by Lord Marke, growing into a man of great passion. Tristan is wounded in battle and presumed dead, but the poison which courses through Tristan's body only paralyses him and he finds himself washed up on an Irish beach where he is found by Isolde, who nurses him back to heath. When Tristan is fully recovered and returns home he is sent once more to Ireland to acquire a wife for Marke little knowing that the maiden that he is fighting for is Isolde. In the face of such a cruel twist of fate can Tristan and Isolde put aside their love or will it bring down a Kingdom...?

Tristan and Isolde (2006) was directed by Kevin Reynolds from a script by Dean Georgaris and to cut to the chase is a beautiful film.

I was ready to put the film in the pile entitled chick flicks, but how wrong could I be. What we have here is a beautifully told, bittersweet tale of a love that fate would not allow. Okay, so it's an old theme, which reappears in Romeo and Juliet and even rears its head in the affair between Sir Lancelot and Guinevere.

Before I wax lyrical about just how good the film is I have to point out one glaring problem, Tristan. Now, there was nothing wrong with James Franco's performance, although he did come across as a little on the ineffectively wet side when it came to Isolde. No, the biggest problem was that Rufus Sewell, as Marke, is just so much better looking than Franco. Now as a full blooded male I wasn't going to bring up the subject of me fancying Marke over Tristan, but thankfully the two females I watched the film with were full of enthusiasm for Marke compared to Tristan. With a big sigh of relief I realised that it wasn't just me. Unfortunately, this rather detracts from the central love theme if your audience is rooting for the wrong man.

Apart from that small gripe, the film was a real delight to review. The cinematography by Artur Reinhart, who worked on Children of Dune, is nothing short of stunning with every frame a delight to the eyes. Kevin Reynolds, who had previously directed Waterworld (stop giggling in the back, I liked it, so that makes two of us) does a fantastic job of getting the best out of his actors, to the point that it is difficult to find anything negative to say about their performances. Sophia Myles is just a stunning looking woman and the warmth that she brought to the role of Isolde, had me falling in love with her quicker than Tristan and the ending had the girls in tears.

Okay, so it sounds like a chick flick, but the film is set in the Dark Ages, therefore there is a good quantity of running around with swords, stabbing each other. Not much of a hobby, I know, but there was little else to do at the time. The fight scenes are well choreographed and get the old blood pumping; it is in these scenes particularly that Franco shines, still you cant help but feel that there would be few men that wouldn't be turned to mush confronted by Isolde.

There are no audio options, so you get 5.1 whether you like it or not, however the film comes with a very generous set of full length commentaries - one from the writer Dean Georgaris and another from the executive producer Jim Lemley and co-producer Anne Lai. On top of that, you get a music promo, an image gallery and a making of featurette. Although it looks like there are more extras on the disc the Look Inside and Coming Soon features just consist of promos for forthcoming films.

So, what more can you ask for? The film has an intelligent script delivered by some great acting, confidently directed by Reynolds. Grab a bottle of wine, and your woman, and you're in for a good evening, just don't mention that you fancy Marke rather than Tristan.

Charles Packer

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All prices correct at time of going to press.