27 January 2006 | acts2120
I did not expect to like this film; the reviews were lackluster, and many seemed to think the leads were mediocre at best. I found the performances riveting and highly engaging. While I do not know the actual historical story, I found the storyline highly captivating.
I thought James Franco played Tristan brilliantly - broken hearted but not brooding, he seemed to only come to life during battle before meeting Isolde, and then afterward only in their stolen moments together. Many of the reviews I've read seem to think that he played the role flatly, but I thought the subtlety of expression in his eyes and body language was impressive. Confident as a warrior, but almost innocent in intimacy, I thought he walked the thin line between adult and youth effectively.
Sophia Myles captured the fire, vulnerability and desire of Isolde with fervor - and that's not easy to do. Myles delivered her lines subtly, tinting words with emotional depth -scorn, joy, passion, frustration, disappointment - that was understated and yet passionate. She, too, managed to portray a delicate balance between the innocence of idealistic youth and the realities of a woman who found her self in an unenviable position.
Rufus Sewell was fantastic. As king, he had to walk the thin line between diplomacy and his own frustrations; as a man, he came alive when with Isolde, and so her betrayal was all that more heartbreaking, a scene which he played with focus and power.
I thought the fight scenes were very well done, except for the excess of cut shots, jumping from person to person, which moved the action almost too quickly, occasionally resulting in a jagged flow of action. Overall, however, the battle scenes were very well done.
The costumes were incredible - not period realistic (especially Isolde's wedding gown) but they were beautiful and overall well designed to intimate the period but still have some glitz. The locations shots were awe-inspiring.
I LOVED these characters very shortly after they each came on screen. I rarely feel such a strong connection to characters, especially of period pieces, but each of the leads played their roles with finesse. I deeply cared about these people, seeing hope and joy rise in their eyes, only to see events quickly turn that joy to sorrow, and hope to forceful determination. Their moments of happiness are so brief, their heartbreak so complete that I found myself profoundly moved by their experiences. As deeply invested as I became with these characters, I nearly sobbed at the end of the movie. A 5-hankie tear jerker.
I eagerly await the release of the DVD, and expect to enjoy this film many times over.