‘300’ **** Movie Review 040907

The Work = ****
I kept thinking of part of a Robin Williams joke about beer commercials. To paraphrase: “it’s always about manly men doing manly things!” That popped into my head while watching ‘300’, a bloody and grand bit of fantasy about a group of 300 Spartan soldiers who stood alone against thousands upon thousands of Persian soldiers in 480 B. C. ‘300’ works as a piece of great battle cinema, succeeding at bringing its audience into the heat of combat when other recent epics like ‘Alexander’ and ‘Troy’ failed. This film gets an easy recommendation but be aware it is a very bloody slice of cinema.

Based on comicbook artist Frank Miller’s work, the same artist responsible for ‘Sin City’, ‘300’ has a stylized look to it (much like the cinematic version of ‘Sin City’). Helmed by Zack Snyder, ‘300’ plows ahead and doesn’t look back. The first third of the film is set up for the coming battles; the last two thirds are dominated mostly by combat. Snyder previously helmed the remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead’, a film I was sure I would dislike but turned out to enjoy quite a bit. Snyder brings with him, a bit of the horror from ‘Dawn of the Dead’ and inserts into some of the combatants that the Persian army has at its disposal.

Wisely, Snyder and crew plant their feet firmly in the realm of fantasy. Sure, some of the details of ‘300’ are historically accurate but that is really the icing on the cake. Even the blood in the film seems to have a life and a color of its own, flying in all directions (and speeds) and often seeming more purple than red. Speaking of speeds, Snyder has no fear of altering the frame rate in ‘300’, sometime ramping up the speed, sometimes slowing it down, at key moments of combat. By embracing the fantasy and the stylistics, historical inaccuracies (such as the Spartans speaking like British pop stars) don’t stand out as much.

If ‘300’ gets into trouble it is occasionally with the dialogue and wanting to show the Spartans as righteous and the Persian Army as nothing but evil. I’m all for setting up the classic good vs. evil fight for right but even with in the confines of ‘300’s brief story the film runs into trouble. Much is made about how the Spartans fight for freedom, that this conflict is one of an oppressed people resisting an evil oppressor. Some of that works during ‘300’ but the Spartans even within the fantasy confines of the film are not exactly the poster children for freedom and equality. In fact, the opening narration tells how babies would be cast too their doom if they did not appear big and healthy enough. (Not only that but my father tells me that the real Spartans owned slaves.) Aside from the weak “freedom” element of the story, a couple of speeches in the film go on maybe a bit too long (most notably one at the end of the film that probably could have been removed all together).

For their part all the actors look great and shout their dialogue with conviction. Gerard Butler as King Leonidas does an admirable job bringing conviction and what depth he can to his character. Lena Headey as his wife Queen Gorgo is beautiful and convincing as the strong Queen that struggles to retain power while her King marches to battle. Dominic West pops up in a supporting role and seems to have could time making his character as slimy as possible. I can’t finish my review without at least mentioning actress Kelly Craig who even if she never acts again will have a place in cinema history as the “Oracle Girl”.

See ‘300’ you will get manly warrior men, sexy naked women and lots of bloody combat. Does it work? You betcha’! Part of the success of ‘300’ is it delivers exactly what it promises. A lesser film would have tried to cram this material into a sanitized PG-13 teen marketed flic’. I think you will not be disappointed with ‘300’ so long as you go in expecting what it advertises. Those looking for a lofty dialogue heavy drama will be sorry to find that you’ll get some blood on your sandals. Highly Recommended.


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