My notes on The Last Templar (2009)
This two-part miniseries – adapted from the ‘best-selling’ novel by Raymond Khoury, which I would assume is a Dan Brown knockoff – has an arresting, if silly opening scene: four knights in armour, with Templar cross tabards, charge on horseback into a museum during the opening night gala for an exhibition of Vatican art and steal some treasures. Why they couldn’t wait a day or so and pull off the heist in regular hours when there wouldn’t be so much security around is beside the point. The authorities are useless anyway, starting with the cop who gets beheaded on the steps, and proceeding to the FBI guys who let a ditz archaeologist in high heels bring down one of the perps while the others escape. Then it gets murky as Dr Tess Chaykin (Mira Sorvino), single mom and shoe-fetishist, runs around New York (played by Canada) disobeying orders while trying to decode a photograph of an ancient scroll using a handy-dandy Templar gadget recreated in perspex using customs x-rays in order to find out what the knights were really after. Meanwhile, a solemn hit man (Danny Blanco Hall) is stalking the armoured robbers at the beshest of – gasp! – a genial cardinal (Victor Garber) who pooh-poohs the myths about the secrets of the Templars while carrying out the Vatican’s long-thought-concluded persecution of the lost order. Tess’s ex-mentor, Professor Vance (Kenneth Walsh), is the slippery madman behind the heist, intent on exposing ancient truths which would destroy the church and end Christianity (he’s the Last Templar of the title). Tess finds time to get into a bickering romance with FBI agent Sean Daly (Scott Foley), which is well-enough written and played to suggest someone came in and did additional dialogue on their scenes, and Part One ends with all the factions en route to Turkey (played by Morocco) to find the Templar secret hidden in a church in a village buried by a long-ago volcano in order to find the location of the figurehead of the sunken ship which contains the really secret secret.
Though potentially epoch-making material is theoretically at stake, all three factions are laughably undermanned: Tess and Sean show up in the desert with a couple of shovels to excavate a whole village (like Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, Tess can’t dig up a site of incalculable historical interest without completely destroying it), the Cardinal tools around with only his pet assassin for company (we’re assured the Vatican hasn’t sanctioned his actions), and Vance has a pair of goons who don’t even get dialogue and are killed off almost instantly. Locating the wreck during a storm is predictably a poor idea, but things are resolved on a nearby island where the sceptical scientist Tess learns the value of faith from a saintly old Christian bloke (Omar Sharif) and prays Sean will come out of a coma (!), while Vance still wants to leak the Templars’ scrolls (unmagical memoirs of ‘a carpenter called Yeshua’) and blow Christianity out of the water. A historical flashback makes it clear that the scroll is a Templar fake, but that’s still no excuse for the supposed archaeologist heroine to throw it into the sea. Ranting atheist Vance jumps off a cliff after the scroll and is killed, while the gesture persuades God to wake Tess’s boyfriend up, so they can have a happy ending at her little girl’s martial arts demonstration.
This is something close to history porn – full of half-digested bits and pieces about religious wars, arcane secret societies and the equivalence of archaeology and detective work, but sloppy with facts available on wikipedia let alone buried in the Vatican archives, half-hearted at best in its ginger treatment of the good and bad done by organised religion and infuriating in its unwilligness to depict either rational science or religious faith in anything but the most stereotyped, shorthand manner. Scripted by Suzette Couture; directed by Paolo Barzman.