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DVD Review: Tristan + Isolde (2006)

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Harry Osborn — I mean James Franco — is exploring new territory with a legendary love story that covers an era of history most Americans know nothing about. Their love almost brought a kingdom to its knees, but instead inspired the best date/action movie since Braveheart.

After the Germanic tribes invaded and took over Rome and most of Europe, power remained divided for several centuries. Each tribe ruled over their own territory, but the individual tribes all paid duties to the nearby Irish. The fate of Ireland rested on the prospect that the tribes of Britain would never unite. When Tristan’s (James Franco) father proposed that the tribes unite as one army that could outnumber their enemies, the Irish quickly stifled the proposal by killing Tristan’s parents and most of the tribal leaders. One of the remaining barons Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell) took Tristan as his own blood and raised him into a young knight.

The King of Ireland offers his daughter Isolde (Sophia Myles) to his greatest warrior if he can stifle yet another unification of Britain. When the grown Tristan interferes and kills the Irish warrior, he also catches the edge of his blade, which is laced with a paralytic poison. Tristan’s men give him a funeral fit for a king and send him off to sea. Tristan washes ashore in Ireland only to meet the soon-betrothed Isolde who hides her identity from the young knight. After nursing him to care she helps Tristan sail back to his home.

After his long journey Tristan can think of nothing but his only love. Lord Marke employs Tristan to compete in a tournament in which the winner would win the hand of the Irish princess in the name of his King. Isolde cheers on Tristan during the competition and is elated to see him the winner until it is announced that she is not the prize of Tristan, but of Lord Marke. What happens after is a legend of love, honor and duty.

I have to say this legendary medieval romance has always made a very likeable love story. As such, it is not your traditional teeny date movie, and Tristan + Isolde as a motion picture shines as one of the more memorable love tales since Braveheart. Not a Hollywood blockbuster, this film will find success as a rental for 20-something couples. Combining a great story with solid low profile actors and a generous helping of swordplay Tristan + Isolde deserves credit as both a good date movie and a good action flick. If you want to take control of your budding relationship, show her your sensitive side by watching a movie together that still draws comparisons to Romeo & Juliet, but at the same time satisfies your man senses.

The DVD boasts a DTS track that further proves that this movie was meant to be seen by as many guys as it was girls. The audio is definitely above average, and the video is sometimes as gritty and primitive as the countryside but also as soft as the curves on Sophia Myles. The special features only suffice with contents such as TV spots and trailers.

James Franco delivers a likeable performance that shows some skill that Sam Raimi has not yet cared to explore in the Spiderman series. Sophia Myles is a relative newcomer, mostly known for her role in the Underworld series, but lights up the screen as the lusty Isolde. Just think Braveheart on a slightly smaller scale and Tristan + Isolde is sure to please.

The Upside:
Not your standard 16-year-old girl friendly love story.
The Downside:
It’s not The Notebook, and yes I did like The Notebook.
On The Side:
Originally Ridley Scott was going to direct a film about the story of Tristan and Isolde in the late ’70s. He put the film aside to direct Alien (1979)

Breaking Down the DVD:
The Film: B

The Delivery: B
The Extras: C
Final Grade: B

DVD Stats:
Release Date: April 25th, 2006
Starring: James Franco, Sophia Myles, Rufus Sewell
Directed by: Kevin Reynolds
Writing Credits: Dean Georgaris (written by)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense battle sequences and some sexuality.
Country: Germany / UK / USA
Run Time: 125 min.
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Trailer

By Brian Gibson, Associate Editor of Film School Rejects

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