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Netflix Chronicles – Augustus

January 31, 2006


Last fall, I spent several weeks following HBO’s Rome.  It was an enjoyable series, to be sure.  It was well acted, well-written, and the production values were quite high.  Even so, it had to be watched with a massive, boulder-sized grain of salt, especially with regards to historical accuracy.

The same, of course, could be said for almost any historical drama, from Gladiator to Braveheart, Ben-Hur, Spartacus, and countless others.  Yes, they may be based on actual, recorded events, but from that starting point they venture off on their own tangents without the slightest regard for accuracy.

I have often lamented this predilection among historical dramas.  Why the need for fanciful fiction, when the actual history is often more interesting, more heart-rending, and more epic?

Perhaps this is why I enjoyed Augustus as much as I did.  It is the rare historical drama that strives for accuracy.  There are one or two diversions but, but and large, the story of Augustus is, well, the story of Augustus.

What is more, the production value seems really high for a film that, as far as I can tell, went straight to video.  The costumes are splendid, as are the sets.  The battle scenes are left wanting, but they are there, which is more than can be said for HBO’s Rome.

And the actors are splendid.  Peter O’Toole is outstanding as the aging Augustus, and the actor who plays him as a younger man does a commendable job as well.  More to my delight, however, were the portrayals of his two close friends, Agrippa and Maecenas. 

Four stars out of five.

Next up – Sahara, a WWII flick staring Humphrey Bogart as a tank commander in Africa.

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