Prepare yourself for an emotional experience! This epic film combines the grand awe of ancient Rome with modern cinematic effects through the expert direction of Ridley Scott (Alien, Thelma & Louise, Blade Runner). This review doesn’t give away vital parts of the plot so you can enjoy thoroughly this movie! Keep in mind this movie is rated R for graphic violence.
Russell Crowe stars as Roman general Maximus who eventually finds himself at odds with Commodus, played by Joaquin Phoenix, the son of the emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). In the first act, a great dialogue scene between Crowe and Harris sets the tone for meaningful character scenes with great acting without posturing and grandstanding. The filmmakers and writers should be particularly commended for producing genuinely emotional scenes between the characters. The amazing battles and shocking gladiator fights fuel the raw emotion in the characters’ dialogue without overshadowing the main plotline of Maximus’ quest for redemption and peace against great odds.
Commodus’ sister, Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) also plays a key role as a woman of power close to the two leading male characters. Other supporting characters include Roman senator Gracchus (Derek Jacobi), fellow gladiator Juba (Djimon Hounsou) and gladiator trainer Proximo (Oliver Reed who unfortunately died shortly after film production ended).
Maximus’ status eventually earns him the nickname “The Spaniard” which may confuse audience members because his character speaks with an English accent (not much of a stretch for the Australian Crowe). Crowe originally wanted to speak in a Spanish accent but filmmakers opted for the English accent. The only elements of Gladiator that audience members, particularly historians, might find questionable are some historical discrepancies such as placement of language, dialect, and common items which did not exist in this setting and time yet. Most of these discrepancies are minor and don’t forget – it is a movie, not the History Channel. Filmmakers never claim that the film accurately predicts history, they’re just telling a grand story which should entertain you thoroughly.
The uses of visual effects, flashbacks, and special camera techniques in this film helps elevate the classic epic genre to new heights. A complete movie with great talent/performances in every filmmaking aspect.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler