Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gladiator -- 2000

Directed by
Ridley Scott

Rated R for violence and gory images and some sexual references
My rating 5 stars

Russell Crowe
Joaquin Phoenix
Connie Nielsen
Derek Jacobi
Djimon Hounsou
Richard Harris
Spencer Treat Clark

There is a stream of things entering into being,
and time is a raging torrent; for no sooner does
each thing enter our sight than it has been
swept away, and another is passing in it's
place, and that too will be swept away”
-- Marcus Aurelius (A D 121-180)

“Today, I saw a slave become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome.”

“My history is a little hazy, Cassius. But shouldn't the barbarians lose the battle of Carthage?”

I love period films. And I love them especially when every detail, great or small, has been attended to. But I have not watched a movie before “Gladiator” that brought me into it's world so completely, not even Lord of the Rings. In fact, it was so intense and my interest was so drawn that at one point, I suddenly realized my face was wet. I didn't even remember crying. Lol.

Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) is Rome's most famous general. Not only has he fought and won many battles for the empire, he is a loyal subject to Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), who loves him like a son, and is a man of great virtue, valor and honor.

Commodus (Joaquin Pheonix) is the son of Marcus Aurelius. If anyone can be the complete opposite of Maximus, it is he. He knows that Maximus is loved more by the Emperor and is very jealous of him but he has high hopes for being named his father's successor. In actuality, he is willing to do anything to bear the title of Caesar. So when Marcus Aurelius comes to him with the news that he has chosen Maximus as the next Emperor of Rome, Commodus wastes no time ensuring certain people's demises and his personal success in becoming Emperor.

But Commodus did not realize that Maximus was more than a soldier and a good man. As Marcus Aurelius underestimated his son, so Commodus did not reckon with Maximus and his fierce dedication in his duty to perform the request of a dying ruler. 

Through it all is the presence of mysterious and lovely Lucilla, the daughter of Marcus Aurelius and sister to Commodus. Is she victor or victim?

What I Liked:
1: How every detail, from story, sets, acting, score, to make-up and dress, leads the way to perfection.
2: The massive feeling of the scenes. For instance, the battle sequences, Commodus' entrance to Rome, the marketplace, the Colosseum...
3: The romance between Maximus and Lucilla is very pure and very believable.
4: Spencer Treat Clark's performance as “Lucius” was excellent. Good children actors are hard to come by.
5: I've watched several films that starred Joaquin Pheonix (my favorite being the first one I watched: “Walk the Line” as Johnny Cash) and I've never seen him act so well. He was the pure evil you need in a character like Commodus... well done.
6: The idea that even in a country so evil as Rome, there is some good... some wish for righteousness.
7: How, in the end, justice prevails no matter how slim the chances are for it.

What You Should be Warned of:
1: There is a lot of gore and violence. It's very realistic, which I appreciate, but not for young children or someone who is not comfortable with it.
2: There is some mention of idol worship. Definitely down played, which makes it a little more acceptable to more audiences. Not very realistic, but I suppose one can't have everything.
3: Commodus desires his sister Lucilla and there are a few suggestive comments... and one scene that made me a bit uncomfortable. However, it was dealt with tastefully and since I know for a fact that sort of thing happened many times in the history of royalty, it didn't shock me.
4: When Commodus is taunting Maximus, he refers graphically to the murders of Maximus' son and wife.

I highly recommend this film for excellence.

If you get a chance to watch the extras, make sure to check out the interview with composer Hans Zimmer. He's an inspiration.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is one of the grandest films of our time. When Commodus does taunt Maximus about the brutal killing of his family, the way Crowe delivers the next phrase should be a part of movie acting display for centuries. Yes a man of little means and power in a particular moment can win hands down with the proper words in all dignity that is "strength and honor", only Jesus could have probably shown more POWERFUL humility. lol.