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“Introduction - ”

Written on: 07/01/2010 by zagureanu (27 reviews written)

Introduction -

Usually I try to review films that haven't had too much coverage, I like to let people know of films that are somewhat unheard of but still great films in there own right. Gladiator however is world famous and already has 341 reviews, despite of this I am still going to add my piece; I felt I needed to for such a brilliant piece of work. Gladiator is a film of epic proportions, released in 2000 and directed by Ridley Scott.

The film won five Academy awards including best picture and revived the sword and sandal genre, this lead to the releases of films such as 300 and Troy. I have become a strong Roman History fan, largely due to the wonderful Emperor books written by Conn Iggulden so Gladiator has become one of my favourite films of all time.

Plot -

As the film opens we see General Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russel Crowe) leading the Roman Army against the Germanic barbarians in 180AD. The battle ends a long war gaining Maximus the respect of the current Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). Although Marcus has a son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), he appoints Maximus as his heir, hoping to return power to the senate. After asking Maximus to fulfil his request he tells his son who take the news very badly, he kills his father in his rage and declares himself Emperor of Rome. Commodus asks Maximus for his loyalty but Maximus refuses. Unsure of Maximus's intentions he orders for him to be executed, and dispatches his Praetorian Guards to murder his wife and son. Maximus narrowly escapes but returns home too late, his son and wife have been killed, he also sustained an injury in his escape and collapses beside the graves he has dug for them.

Maximus wakes to find he has been picked up by slave traders; he is taken to Zucchabar where he is purchased by Proximo (Oliver Reed), the owner of the local gladiator school. Initially Maximus refuses to fight, but he soon has to defend himself in the gladiator ring, his tremendous skill with a blade earns the respect of both the audience and his fellow fighters, in particular Haken (Ralf Moeller) and Juba (Djimon Hounsou).

In Rome, Commodus announces the opening of the gladiatorial games to commemorate his father; Proximo's gladiators are asked to participate, leading Maximus closer to his enemy, the Emperor. I won't say anymore in case it ruins the rest of the story, although I'm sure many of you know the outcome.

My Opinions -

Crowe does a wonderful job of playing General Maximus, I always imagine generals as leaders rather than managers, people want to follow them rather than be ordered to, only then will soldiers follow their leader into battle. Crowe definitely plays the caring side of Maximus very well, it is clear he cares for not only his family but all of his soldiers too by the way he personally greats one in the opening scene. This is what makes him the great leader and husband he is, at the same time Maximus can become a true warrior, Crowe is fairly well built and so is believable as a great swordsman, his demeanour is also perfect, calm and collected and phased by very little, as a Roman General should be. I was impressed with Crowes ability to relate to all those around him, and his friendship with Hagen and Jaba really feels like a true one, considering the position they were in, it was crucial to have friends to watch your back.

I think this is by far Crowe's best performance to date, a role made just for him. In many films we see the camera flying around so fast in battles that it is hard to see what is going on, usually to cover up an actors inability to wield a sword, here however we see the sword fights in good detail, a sign that Crowe handles a sword well and isn't afraid to do his own stunts, I appreciate that in an actor. One of my favourite scenes is where he escapes from execution. Although short and sharp it really shows Maximus's experience over the standard soldiers, a great piece of acting.

Crowe however isn't the only good actor in the film, Djimon plays the part of Jaba very well, as he always does, for me this was the start of a very impressive career. Djimon's frame also makes him a believable warrior, his acting ability knows very little limits; he can be incredibly caring one minute and very menacing the next, as we can see in one of his more recent films 'Blood Diamond'. He too handles a sword impressively and plays the role of Maximus's best friend well, as I mentioned before the connection between them is apparent and they must have been good friends off screen.

Joaquin for me played his role as Commodus to the tee, he is someone who always likes to put on a brave face and pretends nothing bothers him, but really just wants to be liked. Ever since Joaquin played this role I have always had a dislike for him, not because he is a bad actor, but because I always see him as the bad guy, in some ways this is a credit to his acting, he played the role so well. To become Commodus a man has to think sneaky and cruel and I think Jaoquin put in a wonderful display of both caring (mainly for his sister) and hate (for Maximus). He too is however a great swordsman and this is displayed in a small scene where he is practising against 5 of his men, the camera is constantly on him and his ability with a sword is apparent.

Another mentionable role is Oliver Reed as Proximo, a man who initially appears to be driven by money, actually displays the care for his gladiators, the reason we find out later in the film.

The filming style of Gladiator is what I believe makes it so watch-able, the film is past paced when it needs to be, but subtly slows when the more 'political scenes' are on. I personally like a fast paced battle; it keeps you on the edge of your seat and exciting. Even the opening battle scene is kept quite short, even though it is quite a large battle. At the same time however it highlights how much of a great leader Maximus is, and how much he is adored by his soldiers.

Even now, the special effects don't seem dated, the fighting scenes and the Colosseum are particularly impressive and really help express what life was like back then. As I mentioned before we see every sword swing and every splash of blood in the hand to hand combat, which is how it should be in a film named 'Gladiator'. The action is always clear and well lit, mainly because it is set outside the majority of the time, but this increases its watch-ability.

The score was composed by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard and conducted by Gavin Greenaway. The music for the battle scenes, which is my favourite, has been noted as similar to Gustav Holst's 'Mars: the Bringer of War'. It is incredibly fast paced and hard hitting and blends in wonderfully with the action, the timing is also crucial, particularly noticeable in one of the Collosuem battle scenes. The sound effects are loud and crisp in the fighting scenes but soft in the more tranquil scenes meaning your attention isn't unnecessarily taken off the film you are supposed to be watching.

The film received a 77% from Rotten Tomatoes, in my opinion a very low score, I would have expected it to have got at least a 90%, its one of those films that simply sets the standard for any film after it. The film grossed $457 million worldwide and was named the sixth greatest film of all time in a channel 4 TV poll. The film is 154 minutes long, but it certainly doesn't feel like it, the battles are frequent and the political scenes interesting. At the end however I remember thinking to myself, this has ended at just the right time, there isn't a dragged out ending that forces you to sit there through sufferance. It can be purchased for around £3 off Amazon or Play and comes in a variety of different box sets. I would suggest children under the age of 16 did not watch the film without supervision, the fighting scenes are very gory (like a man getting his head cut clean off), and other scenes fairly suggestive, sexually.

The film overall however is a great one and I cant think of anything bad to say about it, I always find myself putting it on just to watch the brilliant fighting scenes, the music on a surround sound really gets you into it. For the cost it should hold a place in every single persons DVD collection just for those rainy days. I hope you have enjoyed my review and if you haven't seen it the legendary film that is Gladiator.

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