Monday, March 26, 2012

My 50 Greatest Movies: No. 45: Gladiator

                              "Death smiles at us all, all a man can do, is smile back"

Gladiator is a Ridley Scott film. It's long, it's violent, and claws away at actual meaning unlike most action epics. It's plot, in essence, is similar to that of Braveheart, where a skilled warrior overthrows a government because they murdered his family. Much like the other films from its time, its liberal use of CGI hasn't aged well. But this movie is still damn good. 

Russell Crowe plays Maximus Decimis Meridius, a general in Rome's Northern Army and trusted confidant of the Roman Emperor Marcus Auerilius.  The film begins with an epic battle scene where we figure out two things, the Roman's are clever, and Maximus is a badass who is never rattled and quietly gives ominous orders like, "Unleash hell".  After a swift and easy victory over some angry German tribe, we meet Joaquin Phoenix's insufferable and evil character Commodus, the Emperor's son, who yearns for his time on the thrown.  After Auerilius informs Maximus and Commodus at separate times that Commodus will not be Emperor, and it's Maximus's job to give Rome "back to the people", Commodus kills his father, sentences Maximus to be executed and orders the murder of Maximus's wife and son.  Maximus escapes, gets picked up as a slave/gladiator by the greatest character in the movie, Proximo, and the epic tale of revenge begins. 

Russell Crowe does an excellent job as Maximus.  Joaquin Phoenix is deplorable, despicable and downright creepy as Commodus and the two are perfect foils for each other. There is a fringe love story, that is key to the plot, but not essential to the review.

Gladiator is an epic, its a better movie than Kingdom of Heaven, Scott's other epic he made soon after, but not quite executed as well. Nonetheless, the film captures its setting marvelously and the scenes inside the Coliseum are the highlight of the movie. 

Here are the ratings:

Music: 4/5: Hans Zimmer comes up with an epic and memorable score for an epic and memorable movie.
Cinematography: 4/5: As I said, the CGI hasn't aged well, so the wide shots of Rome now look like a video game, but the scenes in the Coliseum and in the little arena's they fight in all across the desert look fantastic.
Entertainment Value: 8/10:  Very few parts of this movie drag, its tense, its exciting, and even a little bit unpredictable.
Rewatchability: 7/10: This is a movie you can jump in at any time and ride till the end. So many memorable and great scenes really make this flick.
Acting: 7/10: 7? Really? Might have been the one note fringe characters, but Joaquin Phoenix should've warranted a 7 on his own.
Great Scenes: 7/10:  "Am I not merciful!" "Unleash hell" "Are you not entertained?" All great scenes with memorable lines. My favorite scene of the movie is the speech given by Maximus to Commodus after he reveals that he is still alive. One of the greatest in movie history, no hyperbole.
Total: 37/50

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