Friday, 30 March 2012

Gladiator (2000) - ★★★★½

Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: David Franzoni
Stars: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, Djimon Hounsou

Winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor Russell Crowe, Gladiator is a movie that was and always will be a beautiful film. It is the story of Maximus, the general who became a slave and a gladiator that defied the empire ruled under Emperor Commodus, a sociopath that ordered his wife and child killed.

Ridley Scott masterfully directed the movie by drawing a fine line between making the fictional story mesh well with historical accuracy. There were many historical personalities incorporated into this story such as the Brothers Gracchi and Marcus Aurelius that were a delight to see enacted. Joaquin Phoenix was nothing short of brilliant as Emperor Commodus. The pained expression he expressed whenever he spoke of his father showed just what kind of loveless childhood he grew up in. Somehow, as evil as he was, I couldn’t help but pity the man for Maximus always overshadowed him. Phoenix brought depth to the character and the emotions he showed felt so real.

The battle scenes in the Colosseum were reminiscent of Ben-Hur, Best Picture 1959. Incorporating chariots, tigers and a beautiful backdrop of the crowd of 50,000 plus Roman citizens, the tension and authenticity of the fights set this film apart from most. Perhaps my favorite scene of the movie would have to be when Maximus reunites with his wife and child in the end with incredibly beautiful music signifying that he’s home. The computer animated Rome and cinematography of the many locations the Roman Empire conquered was outstanding, much like Lawrence of Arabia but toned down.

Gladiator will endure through the ages as one of the best movies of all time for many valid reasons. This movie connected with me, however it did not have the same emotional impact as Braveheart, its closest contender. Maximus is a larger than life hero that Crowe played beautifully. I finished the movie feeling happy – happy because I had just seen one of the finest movies that have come from the 21st century. This film rightfully deserved to be the first movie to win Best Picture in the new Millennium. 

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