Gladiator is a truly epic film set during the later stages of the Roman Empire. General Maximus (Crowe) is commander of the armies of the north as they conquer the last opposition to the empire. He is also the favourite of the current, but old, emperor, Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), much to the annoyance of the emperor’s son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). When the Emperor dies, and Commodus seizes power, Maximus is sentenced to death. Naturally he escapes, otherwise this would be a short film, and after finding his family murdered, is captured as a slave, to be used as easy pickings for the gladiators.
He refuses to die, proving his value as a gladiator himself, and is taken by his owner, Proximo (Oliver Reed) to the Coliseum in Rome, where he will seek his vengeance. The film focuses on his rise from the depths to the height of popularity. The immense warriors go against Maximus and each time the hero takes them down. He is the true symbol of greatness. Imagery and sets are the pride and joy of this film. In my mind they are more realistic then any other Roman set I’ve seen in the films that I’ve seen so far. Every detail is perfect, whether it is the 100’s of statues that surround the Coliseum or a tree in the forests of Germania.
The costumes are amazing. They are supremely crafted with every detail taken care of. Besides having and setting the look of all future epics to be compared to, it has two great, young actors and put them head to head, Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix set each other off perfectly. Phoenix is the loud crazy, emotional villain. Crowe is the silent but deadly hero. Then on top of all its other greatness, the film goes above and beyond with its richly textured and heart pounding battle sequences moving from an in-depth high speed filming of a war with the Germanic Barbarians to a Gladiatoric re-enactment of the war of Carthage.
Displaying of war wounds is extensive in this film, whether it is a slice taken out of the gut of a Germanic barbarian soldier, or the head being decapitated from a female gladiator. Whichever way you look at it it truly feels like you’re right in the middle of a war zone. Of course whilst I do appreciate all the best lines and meaningful scenes of the film, as an adolescent teenager, I feel it is my right to tell you about the exhilarating fight scene where the battle of Carthage is re-enacted. Some critics might call this “gratuitous violence” and “unnecessary bloodshed” but as teenagers, we love it!
This is more than just a visually jaw breaking film . The story is more than sufficient, providing high levels of political intrigue and human interest, keeping things both unpredictable and moving. There’s no point having well staged fights if you don’t care about the outcome, but Russel Crowe’s portrayal of Maximus is such that you feel for him. Oliver Read tragically died mid-way through filming, but I’m happy that he managed to get this role in. Joaquin Phoenix, though perhaps never really being menacing, leaves you in no doubt that Commodus was a man driven by ambition and fear to the brink of madness.
The script is sharp, stunning, and heart-felt. It is fierce, fast and razor-sharp yet amazingly leaves room for emotion, atmosphere and always makes room for absolutely jaw-dropping cinematography. Some critics are calling this film a “low- brow distraction”, and some suggest that Scott was trying as hard as he could to make this the worst movie of all time. One even went as far as saying; “Gladiator… moves at a pace only slightly better than an insurance seminar… The movie opens with a battle scene that had me hinking that this flick was going to absolutely rock.
But even before the scene was over, Ridley Scott started mucking with the picture. During the climax of battle he dropped the frame rate and it was suddenly like we were watching the film in Real Video or something. ” Jay Boyar Orlando Sentinel To this person I say that if you had actually watched the film in full, instead of finding fault with anything that was possible, you would see that this is a masterpiece of dramatic proportion and should not be looked upon as “boring”.
The best moment for me by far must be at the re-enactment of the battle of Carthage when at the end Commodus asks Crowe his name and Crowe proclaims; “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next. ” The themes of the film are father/son relationships, the dangers of family inherited leadership, leadership itself, and the difference between power that comes from inside and power that comes from outside.
This is a classic film that will appeal to both fans of historic drama and lovers of action movies. It has dramatic action scenes; superb acting complemented and supported by a brilliant script and the icing on the cake is the special effects and the cinematography. With some help from the thought-out pace and good editing, not one thing in this film fails to entertain. It simply has everything an epic film should have. This ranks as the film of 2000.