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on May 7, 2006
Water is a recurring theme throughout Tristan & Isolde, one of life, of duty, of entrapment, of renewal, and of finality.... and fittingly the film feels like water for a thirsty soul... in a sea of formulaic, shallow and cliched movies. Tristan & Isolde is a blessing in a time when overracting and overwrought delivery is given kudos and a host of awards. Tristan & Isolde gives us the opposite, striving for realism and plausibility, rather than overripe lines and the type of emotional reactions you'd only find in Hollywood movies.

Perhaps for that very same reason - because it doesn't deliver the same old cliches, the same old overdone acting - it's been criticized by many critics as being unemotional and the actors' deliveries undercooked. Tristan & Isolde is bold in its own quiet way just because it doesn't go Hollywood.

Rather, we get an understated emotional experience, a style/delivery that American directors/producers have long forgotten.

Don't listen to the majority of critics on this one.

The cast is well-chosen, and the direction worthy of a standing ovation because the actors portray their characters and deliver their lines -- capturing emotions ranging from a sense of betrayal and confusion to sadness, longing and pain -- in an honest, understated way, much how I see people in real life act when experiencing similar situations.

And thankfully, in line with the movie's realism, there are no grandiose speeches, which usually are par for the course whenever you have love and swords in a movie. (Think Gladiator, Lord of the Rings, Braveheart, and on and on) And there are no melodramatic, overdone deaths scenes....

This movie quickly joins my list of favorite movies.

And, if you're one for formulaic movies full of Hollywoodisms and "sword and sandals" cliches, then you're better off avoiding Tristan & Isolde. Tristan & Isolde is a movie for the smarter moviegoer, who likes realism with their entertainment. Some have called the actors' performances wooden, but perhaps only because such critics have been born and bred on phony, over-the-top acting.

The story is one of love, duty and loyalty... and pained betrayal, as well as understanding..... and it's a movie that resonates more with multiple viewings, as themes and elements become more clear, and the movie deeper as you see threads running through the film that you may not have caught on first viewing.

The movie is ultimately heartbreaking, but I still keep on returning to it. American directors would benefit if they learned the power of subtlety and natural direction and delivery. Until then, I have Tristan & Isolde to come back to.
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on March 25, 2006
I was never familiar with the legend of doomed lovers Tristan and Isolde, but I must admit that even before seeing any preview, I wanted to see the movie because of the reference to Romeo and Juliet, plus I'm a sucker for movies set in that era.

Set in Britain in the Dark Ages, just after the Romans ended their occupation, the barons are fighting among themselves much to the glee of Ireland's King Donnchadh for it gives him power over Britain. But one of the English barons plan a treaty that will unite all the powerful English lords and thereby bring an end to Ireland's power. But the Irish king foils their plan leaving the Lord of Aragon dead and his son orphaned. Fast-forward to nine years and we see Tristan of Aragon in the care of Lord Marke who raised Tristan like his own son. One day, after slaying the Irish warrior who killed his father, Tristan was badly injured and thought dead by his clan. Set adrift in the sea, fate takes his boat to the Irish coast where the beautiful Irish princess, Isolde, finds him and nurses him to recovery. Along the way, the couple falls in love only to be separated when almost discovered by Isolde's father.

But it seems that fate hasn't finished playing her joke on the star-crossed lovers. With the Irish king's offer for a truce comes his daughter's hand in marriage along with a large dowry. Now Tristan fights in a tournament on behalf of Lord Marke, unaware that the woman he fights for is the same one whom he fell in love with. And so begins the epic story of betrayal, passion and forbidden love.

If you enjoyed the story of Romeo and Juliet, or the love-triangle between King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, then you will enjoy TRISTAN AND ISOLDE. James Franco and Sophia Myles produce a believable romance, and the supporting characters are good too with a special mention to Rufus Sewell (Lord Marke). The costumes are great, the battle was good, but never gory, and the overall atmosphere of the movie adds to the drama.

I agree that this movie is under rated. I'm not sure what the backlash is but then I don't really read the critics' reviews. What's important is that I was kept entertained throughout the whole movie and recommend this to anyone who enjoys movies of similar genre.
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on January 15, 2006
The romantic saga of "Tristan and Isolde" has been re-told several times, notably in the opera by Richard Wagner. It's also been said to be Shakespeare's inspiration for his "Romeo and Juliet" as well as for the Arthurian legend of Lancelot and Guinevere.
And so we come to the Kevin Reynolds's film of this story and, despite Reynolds's poor track record and poor rep even though he has had some genuine hits..."T&I" is good: not great but at best truthful and engaging and at worst...silly.
Tristan is played by a moody, pouty-lipped, can't shake the James Dean connection, James Franco. And believe it or not all of the aforementioned traits help to make his character believable: no wimp this Tristan...he is also a brave, skilled warrior. Franco uses his innate vulnerability to balance the obvious and necessary machismo of this role.
The major find though is Sophia Myles as Isolde. Her Isolde is full of fire and intelligence and her very being on the screen is so filled with light that she is almost phosphorescent: she literally glows. She is a major talent along the same line as Lynne Collins in the recent "Merchant of Venice."
There is a lot of warring and fueding and the requisite battle scenes are well choreographed and believable: Reynolds is nothing if not good with staging battle scenes.
"Tristan and Isolde" is very well made and for a story from the middle ages, surprisingly coherent and meaningful. But the main reason to see this film is for the incandescent, beautiful Isolde of Sophia Myles.
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on May 4, 2006
This version does not follow the classical Arthurian form of the Tristan and Isolde legend. However, I found the logic of the film to be internally consistent. I enjoyed that Lord Marke was an honorable and kind man that both Tristan and Isolde respect and care for. The three main characters are complex and not caricatures; having Marke be a decent person makes Tristan and Isolde's decisions that much more painful (and truer to life-- love triangles are rarely made up of clearly good and clearly evil people).

James Franco's Tristan is subtle and restrained. Some have called his performance wooden-- I suggest that the viewer needs to look more closely at Tristan's expressions. Franco manages to convey pain and regret quietly, without any scenery chewing.

Swordfighting and horsemanship are excellent (particularly nice is the final fight in the tournament between Tristan and Wictred). The love scenes are quite tastefully done; never more than bare shoulders or upper back are shown.
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on March 20, 2006
This is one of those rare types of film...a perfect film for a wide variety of audience. A beautiful, historic love story, with a heroic Tristan (Franco)and a beautiful, timeless Isolde (Myles) a lushly filmed epic, complete with some fantastic sets and characters...and thundering, rousing entertainment.

So why was it so passed over?

I don't know...much like I don't know where we go when we die. What I do know is this is one helleva film, all the way around. Filmed in Ireland and the Czech Republic (Like New Zealand, the new film hot spot)...with a perfect cast, David O'Hara as the brooding Irish King is worth the price of admission alone...Rufus Sewell, a very under rated and powerful actor is splendid as the strong yet sympathetic King Marke, who is a good man and thus makes the story even more bittersweet...and a very nice Anne Dudley (Pushing Tin) soundtrack. Extra's are superb, with two running commentaires from the Screenwriter, Dean Georgaris and the Executive Producer, Jim Lemley and the Co-Producer, Anne Lai. I could see a tie to the 1965 film, The War Lord...both in the stories and the need to create a stunning film on a less than stunning budget...it's really very nicely done!

See it...and read the legend. This is a timeless story and all involved should be heartily congratulated. Considering this was presented by the Scott Brothers I would've expected far better treatment. Please do not miss this film...in fact Champion it if you can...it's that good!
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They keep telling me that "Before Romeo and Juliet...There was Tristan and Isolde." Well, before there were Romeo and Juliet there were Harold and William at the Battle of Hastings. I understand that in promoting "Tristan and Isolde" they want to sell audiences on the idea of a romance with dead people at the end of it, but Shakespeare's tale of woe goes back to the Greek myth of Pyramus and Thisbee, as the bard amply demonstrates in "A Midsummernight's Dream." In the featurette on this DVD they eventually get around to the fact that the story of Tristan and Isolde is really the precursor to that of Lancelot and Gueneviere, because these are not simply a pair of starcrossed lovers but two-thirds of a tragic love triangel. The story is called "Tristan and Isolde," but the figure of Lord Marke plays a pivotal role and at its essence the biggest difference between this and the Camelot tale is that this time the story is told from the perspective of the knight and not the king.

There are many version of the tale of Tristan and Isolde from antiquity, so director Kevin Reynolds ("Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves") and screenwriter Dean Georgaris ("Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life") have consdierable leeway in telling their version (i.e., what they do with the tale is as legitimate as what Wagner did with his operatic version). The story is set after the fall of the Roman Empire, which was when Odoacer deposed the last ruling emperor in 476 A.D. All that means is that the story takes place during the Dark Ages, at a time when Ireland had conquered the Britons, who remained a divided people. Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell) has emerged as a man who could be a unifying figure, which regires King Donnchadh (David O'Hara) to take him down. But when Donnchadh arrives in Cornwall, his plans are thwarted by Tristan (James Franco), the adopted nephew of Lord Marke. However, Tristan is apparently killed in battle, and his body is put on a funeral boat, set afire, and sent out to sea.

This is the point when Fate intervenes. Tristan washes ashore in Ireland, where he is found by the beautiful Isolde (Sophia Myles), daughter of King Doochadh. Hiding her identity, she nurses him back to health, and the two become lovers. But then the king discovers Tristan's boat and begins looking for him, forcing Isolde to send him away and back to his home. Meanwhile the game of power politics continues and Doochadh decides to give his daughter in marriage to the winner of a tournament that has been fixed so that a weak leader will be proped up this alliance to the crown. Howeve, Tristan is not party to the fix and we come to the grand irony of the tale: Tristan wins the woman he loves to be the bride of the man who has been like a father to him.

This is a film where I like the way the story plays out. Tristan broods a bit too much to be a real romantic figure, and Isolde keeps complaining about her father's ability to marry her off to anybody she likes, as if she just got off the boat and was not raised in a world where fathers had to pay dowries so that somebody would take their daughter off of their hands. The decision to have Tristan and Isolde be lovers before her marriage to Lord Marke was a good move, because it sets up my favorite scene where the lovers have been exposed and Marke demands an explanation. Tristan, to no one's surprise, says nothing, refusing to either explain or excuse what has happened. But then Marke goes to Isolde and asks the magic question, "How long?" She tells him and in his look and in his response, Marke proves himself to be the leader he aspires to be.

What follows at that point plays out the tragedy to its requisite conclusion. It may well be that I am too old for such tales, but I actually was more interested in how the politics played out than the romance. Then again, it could simply be because we know the lovers are doomed from the start (Nobody plays the Romeo and Juliet card and expects the audience to be thinking the couple are going to live happily ever after). There is plenty of swordplay, employing other medieval weaponry, and some nice creativity with the choreography of the fight scenes. All told there is much more to recommend "Tristan and Isolde" than to pass on it, and if younger viewers are inspired to check out some of the other versions and to contemplate how such differences come about and what they might mean, that would be a good thing as well.
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on December 29, 2006
I went to this movie last year with some trepidation because I just knew that the screenwriters would mess with the original text. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised!! Almost line-by-line from the beautiful French romance. Well worth every minute. I just love it when someone cares enough about an original story to tell it as it was written.
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on June 12, 2006
I was exceedingly impressed with this film. You must be an emotionally driven person to enjoy it because this film is all about emotion. I guess there just wasnt enough blood and guts for a couple of the folks who posted reviews. This movie is anything but boreing! Its not just some love story someone made up to make a movie. It is an age old legend birthed in the dark era that has stood the test of time!! Finally someone with a great idea for a film. It is a self proclaimed low budget film but you cannot tell. I appreciate the honesty of the story; not overdone or flaky by any means. The chemistry between Franco and Myles is utterly captivating and I am in awe of the musical score! I actually purchased the soudtrack before I bought the DVD. I think the music is one of the elements that drove this story home for me. The emotion of every scene is carefully portrayed in the music.

I have had enough of movie critics. I dont think that films like this one should suffer at the hand of some stupid critic who has no idea what people want to see.

This one is right up there with LOTR, Braveheart, Gladiator. Moving. Inspiring. Captivating. SEE IT.
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on July 21, 2006
I really enjoyed Tristan + Isolde...in fact, much more than I thought I might.

The performances were all excellent, especially those of James Franco, Rufus Sewell and the radiant Sophia Myles. The period details and production design were quite well-done. Best of all, the script dealt with such big themes as love, honor, duty and even redemption, but not in a heavy-handed fashion.

I had recommended Tristan + Isolde to a friend who likes Jane Austen novels. The movie has that sort of grand, sweeping romanticism she would probably like coupled with enough sword fights and action scenes to keep the boys in the audience entertained as well...in other words, this is perhaps the perfect date movie.
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Period pieces can be a tough sell, especially if they cannot rely on big budgets, extravagant sets and fight scenes, and the opulence of big name movie stars to carry them (think Troy, Alexander the Great, etc). TRISTAN AND ISOLDE unfortunately had none of the above to propel it through the important theater run, yet having seen the DVD in the quiet of the home gives proof that all the accoutrements are not necessary if the piece has a vision starting with the writer (Dean Georgaris) and played through with a director such as Kevin Reynolds (Count of Monte Cristo, Rapa Nui, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, etc) and produced by sensitive designers and a credible group of fine actors. For this viewer, this very unique version of the Tristan and Isolde legend works very well, transporting us into the post Roman empire of the 600s AD when what is now England was a cluster of disjointed tribes and Ireland was the superior force.

Realizing the proximity of Britain to Ireland aids the credibility of the action, an action dependent upon easy access via the ocean to the warring countries. Appropriately, Georgaris begins his amalgamation of the legend with Tristan (Thomas Sangster) as an orphaned child who is taken in by Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell) and raised with Melot (Henry Cavill) as a family that yearns for the unification of the Briton tribes in solidarity against the threat of Ireland, ruled by King Donnchadh (David O'Hara) whose daughter Isolde (Isobel Scott Moynihan) shares the same sorcery healing skills as her loyal maidservant Bragnae (Bronagh Gallagher). Time passes and Tristan becomes a man (James Franco) and Isolde a woman (Sophia Myles) and in a serendipitous move Tristan is thought killed by Isolde's ugly betrothed (while the betrothed is actually killed by Tristan) but washes ashore in Ireland where his critical wounds are nursed by Isolde and Bragnae and the two begin a love affair doomed by royal rules. The remainder of the tale shows the many trials a young love must endure: Tristan is sent as Marke's representative to fight in a tournament in Ireland, the winner being promised the hand of Isolde. Tristan wins the tournament but because of his loyalty to King Marke he is obliged to bring Isolde to Britain to wed Marke. The two lovers remain secretly passionately in love but also deeply respectful for the kind King Marke, but as the various tribes of Britain still compete for power, rumors are arranged and the lovers are exposed, much to the pain of Marke.

All of this seemingly complicated plot is in truth a simple love story of a love forbidden by rules but solid by passion. Though there are many versions of this old tale (and there are moments when the viewer will ask questions about the love potion and Kurnewal and the character of Melot, etc that many know best from Wagner's adaptation for his opera), this version works very well. The settings in Ireland and the Czech Republic are dark and windswept and redolent of the Dark Ages, and the toughest of all assignments - creating a music score that doesn't attempt to compete with Wagner - is beautifully written by Anne Dudley. Yet such a story relies heavily on the actors and James Franco is a pensive yet brilliant warrior torn between love and duty and Sophia Myles creates an Isolde of incomparable beauty, balancing fragility of heart with strength of character. Rufus Sewell is a brilliant King Marke, Bronagh Gallagher a superlative Bragnae, and the smaller roles such as Henry Cavill's eye-candy Melot, David O'Hara's grisly Donnchadh and Mark Strong's seething Wictred bring total commitment to the screen.

The DVD adds excellent features about the making of the film that for once truly enhances the viewing experience, making the viewer want to return immediately to the story to see how the magic was fulfilled. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, April 06
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