Neil Bahadur’s review published on Letterboxd:
"I am Senator Quintius Atius Corvus!"
"And what is that worth?"
It's even better than I remembered. And so, it's even harder to write about! One thing: it's incredibly economic. There seems to be an idea or several in every shot. It's one of the great masterpieces, in my opinion. One of the most problematic things about much of the writing on WS is the de-politicization of his movies. Pompeii in fact is probably his most sustained concentration of his ideas since Shopping. There is constant talk of human beings being property, investments being made, and the difference between classes. And so "the mountain" destroys civilization. Perhaps that's why the destruction at times seems so beautiful! Indeed, in the face of the destruction of a civilization, what are our primal instincts? Here, its love, friendship and charity. What is this idealism, where in the collapse of all man-made systems a fundamental humanity remains, and even becomes stronger?
Even in action scenes this economy is sustained. We see the eagle symbol constantly throughout the movie, a symbol of power. So in the movie's central gladiator sequence we see the Eagle fall to the ground, which WS, in his quick cuts, somehow finds time to linger on it in a close-up. "I do not yield to the power of Rome. I spit on it." There are classical Germanic heroes. And then there are those with power. Here, WS seems to be saying, is the answer to political machinations: romance and friendship. In short, human connection. An absurd, unstoppable idealism: a person chases after the one they love as even the ground around them collapses. Never has the possibility of the end of the world seemed so favorable for humanity. (well, at least in movies!) "For those of us about to die, we salute you. I die a free man!"
I give up. It's one of the most beautiful and important films ever made. Not even gonna bother writing about the ending.