Tristan + Isolde (12A) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

This legend of star-crossed love is given a handsome refit here. The Ireland and Cornwall of the Dark Ages, looking convincingly gnarled and rain-lashed, are the backdrop to the story of Tristan (James Franco), bravest knight of Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell), who adopted him after Tristan's parents were murdered by Irish invaders.

The bond between the two men is fatally undermined when Tristan falls for Irish princess Isolde (Sophia Myles), whose hand in marriage he has unwittingly won for Lord Marke. The struggle between duty and desire is thrillingly expressed in the performances of Myles and Franco, whose tragic mask of suffering haunts the movie long before it launches into its violent denouement. Sewell is also top-notch as the elbow of this forlorn love triangle.

Director Kevin Reynolds brings more depth to the material than he has to previous epic ventures (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Count of Monte Cristo) and swaps the magical framework of the myth for a tougher, more realistic texture.

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