Wednesday, 3 February 2010



Dir: Ridley Scott (Alien, G.I. Jane, Kingdom of Heaven, Robin Hood (2010))
Cast: Russell Crowe, Joaquim Phoenix, Connie Nielson, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, Djimon Hounsou, Derek Jacobi, Spencer Treat Clark
UK/USA, 2000

Seen: Many times theatrically & at home, revisited February 2, 2010 on VHS

Reason to Watch & Review: For the Sword & Sandal Marathon*

First off, I'm a little mystified I only have this one VHS but that shows it's vintage from 'back in' 2000. I have lots of fond memories of this film, from seeing the first previous at the (then) Paramount theatre, to seeing it theatrically and discussing it at length with people, to renting it on VHS, which could very well be the copy I now own. It also holds a special place in my heart as it was the year I got back into watching film and a year where I watching the Academy Awards with baited breath, and cheered along the way as it won 5 of the 9 awards it was nominated for (Picture, Actor - Russell Crowe, Costume Design, Visual Effects and Sound), and that was one of the last times I was thrilled about the majority of the outcomes.

There is no contest that this is the best film as part of the marathon so far, from a personal standpoint it made my A Decade of Movie Memories for 2000, to the Oscar and award wins, to still being on IMDb Top 250 (#102 as of today) and the general consensus that everyone loves it. Revisiting it 10 years later shows that it stands up to the test of time and cements that it's a perfect storm of a film - great director, great lead actor, epic story and a beautiful vision fully realized on the screen. Every aspect of the film is exceptional.

In terms of being a Sword & Sandal film, this one is obviously of the Gladiator vein. Russell Crowe stars as Maximus, a character who is a force to be reckoned whether a general or a slave. He is also a solid example of being showing how people are who they are, and regardless of their situation plays the role that they are meant to play. He can't be anyone but himself - someone with excellent prowness, someone is is loyal and gravitates to natural leadership and a person of great physical strength. He isn't the only example of this in the film, we get several fantastic characters and one of those is played by Joaquim Phoenix, who in a phenomenal performance brings us the power hungry Commodus who also truly is who he is and no one else which makdes his character all the more tragic. Filling out the main characters is Lucilla, Commodus' sister played by Connie Nielson whom I'm surprized didn't receive a nomination for her performance, as she has some of the strongest moments in the film. Her relationships are the most complicated and the amount of depth in performance is astounding as she portrays someone who is truly between a rock & a hard place throughout the majority of the film but still someone how maintains perfect distance and calms all the troubled waters.

The dialogue is very powerful, it clearly showcases the characters motivations, desires and quiet evasions and on top of all that it is ridiculously memorable. There are certain quotes that get used over and over again but I didn't expect to remember it so well, I've not seen this film for at least 5 years and I remembered about a third by heart. I didn't expect that as I would think of this film primarily for the its overall story along with the fighting & action sequences. But this time I what I really took away from it was the characters, and I specifically enjoyed how it demonstrated in a subtle cause & effect manner distinctively different leadership styles and their effectiveness. In this it explores loyalty, strength, bravery, balance, defiance, power and empowerment. Amazing.

"There was once a dream that was Rome."

Dreams are powerful, as is this film is powerful. I won't be waiting another 5 years to revisit it again.

Shannon's Overall View:
I love it
I own it
I widely recommend it

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© Shannon Ridler, 2010

* The Sword & Sandal Marathon is a 13 week marathon exploring sword & sandal films in anticipation of the 2010 release of Clash of the Titans (2010)


melanie said...

excellent review! agree 100%.

that's so true about connie, such a subtle and nuanced performance. not the lead and yet each time she was on the screen, you paid attention.

gladiator is one of my faves. this movie made me have a 'film crush' on ridley scott & john mathieson (his DP who helped him achieve such a beautiful vision).

Castor said...

Great review. I absolutely love Gladiator and I believe it is one of the very movie of last decade.

The scene where Maximus removes his mask and turns to face Commodus sends shills down my spine every time!

The Mad Hatter said...

"What we do in life...echoes in eternity". I can't believe it's been ten years since this sucker...where does the time go?! I love how it takes a lot of the best elements of the movies that went before it and brings them together for what feels like a fresh story.

Great start to the sword & sandal series.

(BTW - My Oscar podcast is up today)

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

This film really resonates with everyone, eh?

I'm always surprized we don't see Connie Nielson more, she was in the original version of Brothers and does a great job there.

I can't believe it's from ten years ago, but then again I have the VHS to prove it!

It's so fantastic, I think the only bad thing was that it spawned so many films that tried to mimic it's greatness, but couldn't do it!

8gb pro duo said...

It's my one of the favorite movie in my best movie list. Such a great role of Russel Crow in this movie..

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