A stunning return to form by Ridley Scott, who revived the swords-and-sandals movie in the 2000s.
Cast: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris
Plot: A former Roman General sets out to exact vengeance against the corrupt emperor who murdered his family and sent him into slavery.
Awards: Won 5 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Leading Actor, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects. Nom. for 7 Oscars – Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Original Score.
Subject Matter: Moderate – Vengeance; Justice
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
First Published: 23 Mar 2007
The release of Gladiator helped significantly in consolidating Ridley Scott’s reputation as a master filmmaker. His two best works are still Alien, and Blade Runner made in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
But Gladiator has been a cause of optimism for Scott, a box-office success, as well as being nominated for twelve Oscars, bagging five, including best picture. It’s a confidence booster for the premier director whose works in the 1990s (with the exception of 1991’s Thelma & Louise) have been so-so by his own towering standards.
A visual spectacle, Gladiator combines elements from Spartacus and Ben-Hur, and is made in the tradition of classic epics, but enhanced with modern special effects technology.
The result is a potent motion picture depicting loyalty, corruption, and slavery in the most brutal, uncompromising fashion, set in medieval Rome.
“What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”
The level of cinematography accomplished is of the highest standard, capturing Rome in astonishing detail, yet with a certain degree of credibility. The film is 2.5 hours long, but Scott keeps it tightly-paced, without going overboard with fancy editing.
Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix provide the two supporting pillars, carrying the bulk of the film on their shoulders, giving a powerhouse, and devilish display respectively.
Gladiator would probably only be half as engaging without Hans Zimmer rousing, grandeur score. It’s a perfect complement to the visuals.
Gladiator comes at a crucial time when the historical epic genre seems almost non-existent since Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (1995). It started a trend of similar films such as King Arthur (2004) but those are poor imitations that make us appreciate Gladiator even more.