It’s not Romeo & Juliet, but you’re still going to fall in love with Tristan + Isolde.
It’s the dark ages, and Ireland and England are at war. As a boy, Tristan watched his parents get brutally slain by the Irish. Around the same time, young Isolde, daughter of the King of Ireland, witnessed her mother die not of disease, but rather due to the lack of love as she believed.
Nine years later, the pair’s paths meet and love blossoms [adult roles played by James Franco (Spider-Man) and Sophie Myles (Underworld)]. But, as if being caught in between two warring nations wasn’t enough, Isolde is forced into a political marriage with Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell, Dark City), Tristan’s surrogate father and the newly crowned King of England, to keep the peace between the Irish and the English. The young lovers begin a secret affair that threatens to not only tear asunder an uneasy truce between the countries, but strain the bond between Tristan and Marke.
Ridley and Tony Scott produced this tale of two star-crossed lovers whose last names are not Montague and Capulet. We know what you’re thinking—that we couldn’t help but throw in the obvious Romeo & Juliet comparison. But the fact is that the comparisons are bound to come up, despite this legend preceding Shakespeare’s play by centuries. The irony, of course, is that the best way to describe the story is that it’s very Shakespearean in its nature, dealing with such classic themes as betrayal, deceit, loyalty and passionate, yet restrained, love.
Guys, if you’re suddenly dreading watching this movie, expecting it to be filled with men in tights sprouting five-minute monologues, fret not. The story itself is very well-balanced with some decent battle scenes, the most impressive being the English forces’ elaborate ambush of the Irish in the forests. Visually, however, nothing really stands out.
The cast’s performances are pretty good overall. James Franco is quite short on dialogue; a surprising, yet effective move. He pulls off the brooding, conflicted young Tristan with much more believability than his over-the-top turn as Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man films, using his scowl to get the message across much more effectively. Sophia Myles is the complete opposite though, delivering her lovelorn lines with a touch of sadness. But it’s Rufus Sewell, as usual, who shines the brightest, bringing a sense of admirable regality and great sympathy to the role of Lord Marke.
Tristan + Isolde is, at the end of the day, a great date movie. It’s got the action for the guys, the romance for the gals and, all around credible performances for everyone. It’s nothing special otherwise, but still worth a watch.