Gladiator [2000] (4/7/12)

GladiatorMovie Seventy Seven

Very few films these days could be aptly called “epics”, but Ridley Scott’s Gladiator surely fits that bill.

From the title alone, you know Gladiator will provide some great arena battles but it has a much deeper story than just a vehicle progressing from one battle to the next. First, Gladiator is a story of revenge.

Great Roman general, Maximus (Russell Crowe), is set to be placed into power by Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). Upon learning this, the Emperor’s son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), murders Aurelius and takes control of Rome. Maximus knows the truth, but Commodus orders the murder of his family and Maximus winds up as a slave to fight in the arena as a gladiator.

The acting is brilliant, and the roles are perfectly cast. I never once doubted that Crowe could actually do some of the things Maximus does and Phoenix plays a sniveling coward of an Emperor spot-on. The sets and landscapes are breathtaking, the colors are vivid and intense, and the action will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Gladiator’s closest kin now is the Showtime Spartacus series which seems more intent on being 300 than anything else. Gladiator has taken great lengths to feel true to history, despite being fictionalized history. It has more in common with Spartacus (the 1960 Stanley Kubrick/Kirk Douglas outing) or Ben-Hur which is refreshing. Despite its length (about 150 minutes) it doesn’t drag nor overstay its welcome. Gladiator is a film that deserves its Academy Award for Best Picture.

I give it 5 tiger battles out of 5.

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