"STRENGTH AND HONOR." These are the principles that heavily underlie the lead character in the new release from Dreamworks and Universal, Gladiator, from director Ridley Scott. It would be hard to believe that this same person brought us the movies Alien and Thelma and Louise. Most of all, I personally can't hardly believe that Ridley Scott finally made a kick-butt movie that I absolutely love. From the opening sequence, to the climax of the film, I was in complete awe. Even with all of the hype going into the film, I never expected it to be as good as it is, and that's just plain AWESOME!
The film opens up with Rome's greatest general, Maximus (Russell Crowe), about to lead his men in the final battle with the Germanians. And boy does it open up! Mel Gibson's production of the award winning Braveheart (as great as it was) never even came close to the battle sequences found in this piece of work, and that's something that audiences are just going to be astounded by. With the combination of great acting, sets, cinematography, and almost undetectable CGI effects (take that George Lucas!), Ridley Scott has finally outdone himself. And that's just the beginning!
After the threat of the German hordes has finally subsided, the film goes on to show the ruling Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelious, revealing what he wants done with the Empire after his passing. Peace is to be his legacy. And the reinstatement of the old Roman Senate is the means. Unfortunately, this desire is revealed to Maximus alone before the aging Caesar goes to his power-hungry (and albeit cowardly) son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) and sharing these same details with him. Big mistake! With the sudden death of the Emperor (with which I will not go into detail), Commodus assumes the title of Caesar and orders the death of our beloved Maximus. But unawares to Commodus, Maximus escapes his demise and races home to discover that his wife and son have been murdered by none other than the newly crowned Emperor.
Our hero is then discovered by a band of slavers that take him into bondage, then sold to a retired gladiator, Proximo (the late Oliver Reed), who earns his living by providing lethal entertainment in the arenas of the Roman Empire. Through conquering in these fights of survival, Maximus quickly rises to a status that brings him to Rome to fight for the unknowing Emperor.
With a face-to-face reunion that borders on deadly, the plot of the story quickly accelerates once Commodus knows that Rome's most beloved Gladiator is his mortal enemy. The way the movie unravels as treachery and betrayal fuel our protagonist's cause stirs up so much emotion, you can't help but to cheer for our Crowe as he fights and slaughters his way to Commodus.
This is definitely this year's best film to date, and anybody and everybody that has ever desired for the cause of freedom in the face of tyranny will no doubt be moved by this excellently crafted masterpiece. Those who do find themselves taking up arms (so to speak) for our hero's cause will no doubt return to see this film, as I and my wife did. You will not be disappointed. And if you are like me, you will find yourself wishing to enlist in Crowe's army if but to hear him say "At my signal, unleash hell."
Review for The World is Not Enough | Topic Menu | Box office reports for May 5-7, 2000
The official site for Gladiator