Home > Reviews > THE LAST LEGION – Patrick Doyle

THE LAST LEGION – Patrick Doyle

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A historical action-drama set in the final, crumbling days of the western Roman Empire, The Last Legion stars young Thomas Sangster as 12-year-old Romulus Augustus, whose previously privileged life takes a terrible turn when, on the day he is crowned emperor of Rome, the empire falls into terrible anarchy. Banished to the island of Capri to live for the rest of his life, Romulus learns of the legend of a mystical sword which was once owned by Julius Caesar, and which he believes may help him return to power. With the help of his teacher Ambrosinus (Ben Kingsley) and the last loyal legionnaire Aurelius (Colin Firth), Romulus escapes the island, and goes to the distant province of Britannia, to search for the sword and gather together a legion of soldiers who will fight for the final glory of the Roman Empire.

Doug Lefler’s film, which also features Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai and Scottish actors Peter Mullan, John Hannah, Kevin McKidd and Iain Glen, is a curious mix of Roman epic and Arthurian legend, which despite its promising-sounding premise, never really captured the imaginations of audiences. Patrick Doyle’s score follows on from the similar-sounding Eragon from 2006, a large-canvas, sweeping fantasy action score which could never be accused of being subtle.

The performance, by the London Symphony Orchestra, is impressive in both size and scale. Right from the outset, in the opening “Sacred Pentangle”, Doyle presents his main theme with ravishing gusto: noble and stirring, with a slight militaristic overtone, and an important-sounding choral accompaniment. It gets perhaps an even more impressive rendition in the next cue, “Coronation”, but thereafter, unlike other recent scores which have tended to be monothematic efforts, Doyle mixes things up a little.

The action music, in cues like “Goths Sieze Rome”, the Horner-esque “The Battle of Hadrian’s Wall”, and the emotional “Death of Vortgyn”, are bold and aggressive, never leaving the listener in any doubt as to the score’s dramatic intentions. Occasionally, more mystical material appears in cues such as “Secret Sword” and “Excalibur”, clearly alluding to the Arthurian legend elements of story through moody, vaguely Middle Eastern woodwind writing and a slightly softer tone.

However, on the whole these moments are few and far between. If one was to make any criticism of the score it would be to say that the whole thing is just so immense from the outset the opportunity for any kind of dramatic catharsis is diminished. Virtually every cue is enormous and epic, and at times the lack of respite can make listening to the score something of an exhausting experience. Having said that, Doyle nevertheless impresses with his style and sense of adventure, and despite my criticisms it remains one of the 2007’s outstanding epics.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • Sacred Pentangle (2:57)
  • Coronation (2:16)
  • Goths Seize Rome (4:14)
  • Wrong Answer (2:07)
  • Secret Sword (5:53)
  • Escape From Capri (3:23)
  • Nestor’s Betrayal (3:15)
  • Journey to Britannia (2:30)
  • Hadrian’s Wall (2:15)
  • Excalibur (1:51)
  • Sword Play Romance (1:12)
  • Who Killed Them? (3:14)
  • The Battle of Hadrian’s Wall (6:17)
  • Death of Vortgyn (4:18)
  • No More War (5:41)

Running Time: 51 minutes 23 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6820 (2007)

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