Reflections on the Golden Screen
Many of the movies described on other pages  of this websitecould quite rightly be described as adventure films but the films featured on this page are not set in deep space or the western plains or the backstreets of Chicago and don't subscribe to any particular genre.  They are in fact "Boy's Own Adventure Stories" of a more sophisticated kind and like all adventure stories they are an escape from the ordinary and a vehicle for those of us who dream of slaying dragons, rescuing maidens in distress (preferably in low-cut blouses) or defying overwhelming odds; most of us have daydreamed of all those things and if we are honest most of us still do.  In the deepest recesses of our hearts we never really grow up and the films described here are just grown-up versions of the Saturday Matinee.  You will not find Indiana Jones here any Hobbits - although they are the finest examples of adventure stories both epics have been eulogized many times which is why the films here are lesser known.
Centurion (2010) Director: Neil Marshall
Centurion was inspired by the legend of the 9th Legion which vanished from the face of the earth more than 1900 years ago while entering the land of the PIcts, but one hundred years prior to the 9th' lost legion, in 9 A.D. in the forests of Germany, there was an even worse disaster for Rome when no less than 3 Legions were ambushed and massacred in the Teutoberg Forest.   There is a great deal of truth in A.A.Gill's perceptive article which states:
The slaughter in the Teutoberg Forest divided Europe into the warm south who forever saw forests as dreadful places to be cleared and avoided, homes to dragons and trolls, antitheses of the civilized city - and the north who understood them to be healing, protecting, mystical, spiritual places.  How you feel about a silent birch forest at twilight says more about your blood and your kin then your passport
The Director, Neil Marshall, could well have had Gill's thoughts in mind when he chose the rugged, sometimes harsh, landscape of Scotland, where the misty moors and forests inhabited by wild and fearsome tribesmen go a long way to creating the atmosphere of menace and foreboding which is present throughout the film.  Michael Fassbender, David Morrisey and Liam Cunningham are truly realistic as survivors of their legion of Roman soldiers brutally massacred by the Picts in a scene which the Director supposes what may have happened to the lost 9th legion.  As the remainder of the legion set out on a hopeless rescue of the captured General Virilus (Dominic West) they find themselves fleeing for their lives as the Pictish leader Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen) orders the formidable Etain (Olga Kurylenko) to track them down.

Films such as this are a far cry from the 1950's and 60's Hollywood versions of Rome, the stiff and starchy speech has been replaced by a more realistic argot and the posturing and saluting has been abandoned for the free and easy way of soldiers fighting a frontier war.  There may just be a little too much blood-letting and gruesome fight scenes for some cinemagoers but the film is undoubtedly gripping from beginning to end. 

The Eagle (2011) Director: Kevin Macdonald
Released just one year after Centurion, The Eagle is so similar that it could well be described as a sequel to the former film.  Americans playing Roman soldiers have always been a little circumspect ever since Victor Mature drawled his way through the part of Demetrius so when Channing Tatum was chosen for the leading role it could have been disastrous - fortunately for all concerned Tatum was a perfect fit and carries the part easily.  Once again the Lost Legion of the 9th is at the heart of the story as the centurion Marcus Aquila goes in search of the standard of the lost Eagle of the 9th and redeem his father's honour as the leader of the lost legion.  Accompanied by the slave Esca played by a feisty Jamie Bell, the centurion travels deeper and deeper into the mysterious heartland of Caledonia (Scotland), finally reaching the home of the Seal People at the northernmost point of the country where the ferocious tribesmen survive on a bleak, freezing cold, rocky outcrop overlooking the cold north sea.  The Seal People are as hard and tough as their environment and when Marcus discovers the Eagle is a treasured trophy of war kept in a cave their anger is unremitting as he steals it back and escapes on horseback.   Tracked by the enraged Seal People Marcus and Escar are relentlessly hunted down in a scenario which is remarkably similar to the Centurion plot culminating in a thrilling final battle set in those misty and mystical supernatural forests which A.A.Gill described so well.  There's not a great deal to choose between both films but If I was pressed I would say that The Eagle is slightly superior given the chemistry between Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell; there's also the fact that the fight scenes in The Eagle are far more realistic simply because they are less gruesome. 

The Lost City of Z (2017)  : Director Charles Gray
Given that Percy Harrison Fawcett had been one of my English heroes  when I was aged about 12, I was looking forward to see his exploits on the big screen for the first time.  Although my comics and magazines had pictured Fawcett as an archetypal hero on the lines of Indiana Jones I found out later that in reality he was more in the nature of an Old Testament ascetic dedicated to the point of fanaticism in finding a lost city that he called Z.   Unfortunately, Charlie Hunnam who plays Fawcett in the film is neither hero or ascetic and comes over as a kindly English gentleman who likes roaming the jungles of Brazil and gets along with everyone he comes into contact with; the reality was that most people could not abide Fawcett's driven approach to life and gave him a wide berth and those who chose to go exploring with him found his unrelenting attitude eventually unbearable.   Apart from Charlie Hunnam lacking the gravitas to portray Fawcett, most of the scenes are played out in the gloom of Victorian drawing rooms with the dialogue often whispered and incomprehensible.  Where I expected a boy's own adventure full of excitement and incident The Lost City turns out to be a plodding and jumbled version of the true story.  It's obvious that I can't recommend this film but for a gripping account of Fawcett's exploits  I can recommend the book of the same title by David Grann which is a real page-turner and generates far more excitement than the film ever does.

Cold Mountain​   (2003) ​; Director Anthony Minghella
Watching this film for the third time, it's only now I realize just how good this movie is.  Set at a time when the American Civil war is nearing it's end, the film is filled to overflowing with people who are suffering because of that dreadful war between brothers.  The film makes it clear that it wasn't just the soldiers in uniform who suffered but those left at home struggling to make a living while being preyed upon by the so-called Confederate Home Guard.  Throughout the film, poverty-stricken men and women live in fear as they await the end of the war, from slaves made homeless to women-only  households and on to roaming bands of soldiers of both sides.  In a bleak landscape of subsistence farming where law and order has broken down, there's no sheriff walking the streets and no Clint Eastwood to level the odds.  The plight of the injured Inman played by Jude Law trying to make his way back home sees him trekking across an unforgiving landscape and a huge feature of the film is his encounters with a people thrown into turmoil because of the war - some of them wicked, some of them kind and most of them bewildered by the whole situation. Inman's picaresque travels across America are a huge feature of this film.
Alternating with Inman's travails, is the story of his lover Ada Monroe played by Nicole Kidman, struggling to survive in the face of a cruel band of Confederate Home Guards led by the wicked Teague played by Ray Winstone and not least by her own inadequecies on the farm.  
There is a marvellous supporting cast, not least Philip Seymour Hoffman and a group of musicians led by Brendan Gleeson who actually wrote and performed his own music.  Renee Zellweger overacts a little - possibly because she is in such exalted company.
This film has all the ingredients of  great movie --it has adventure, joy, sadness, pathos, love and action - why I was so reticent about it previously I just don't know.