Gladiator (2000) Review

Maximus Decimus Meridius was a former Roman General who sets out to get vengeance against the corrupt Emperor Commodus who murdered his family and sent him into a life of slavery, due to the utter jealously of how much his father favoured the general.

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When Emperor Marcus Aurelius tells Maximus that his son Commodus is unfit to rule he wants Maximus to succeed him. In doing so saving Rome from corruption and restoring the Roman Republic. Obviously this was never going to go down well with Commodus and her murders his own father to take rule himself. When Maximus refuses to be loyal to him he is arrested and told his family will die. After breaking free from arrest and seeing his wife and son had been murdered everything is about to take a different turn when he is made a slave and sold to Proximo, a gladiator trainer.

Due to his military skills he actually transfers well into the world of the gladiators. He quickly becomes respected within the arena and is told that he can win his freedom if he wins the crowd. He will then travel to Rome’s Colosseum with Proximo and the other gladiators he became friends with Juba and Hagen. When he debuts in the combat he is wearing a masked helmet, upon winning against the odds Commodus enters to congratulate them and is rather shocked when he finds out it is Maximus, who threats vengeance in this life or the next. It is a pretty great moment it has to be said.

A story about revenge in a way that is dignified and not instantly brutal. The build up to Maximus getting his chance to face Commodus is actually rather beautiful. He manages to somehow resist the temptation early on at just attacking him. Which really makes that final battle scene even more satisfying. We hate Commodus not just for what he did to Maximus and his father but the way he attempts to seduce his sister and very creepy towards his nephew Lucius.

Everything about Gladiator is truly epic, the fight scenes are on another level and the addition of the tigers into one of the scenes has to be one of my favourites. The mannerism of the way the film is shot is just stunning and beautiful to look at. I don’t even care how cliche it is to say visually stunning, but this film still is 21 years after its 2000 release. I have seen it many times over the years and I still feel it gets better with each viewing.

A worthy best picture winner that has to be said Ridley Scott’s direction, Hans Zimmer’s score and Russell Crowe’s Oscar winning performance. Stunning to watch and relive over and over again. Crowe is outstanding in the leading role and is given so many amazing lines and moments. “Are you not entertained” being a particular highlight as well as giving his full name in the dramatic scene. It’s probably not very often that we get a leading performance that is utterly on par with the quality of the film. Also the supporting roles are very good as well, Djimon Honusou is a rather unsung hero of the film. Oliver Reed and Derek Jacobi certainly adding some fantastic moments. Then we have Joaquin Phoenix who was also nominated in a supporting role and is great in this truly creepy horrible role. It’s one of those performances that will slightly put you off him for a little while, mainly because he is that convincing. Connie Nielsen is fantastic as Lucilla and considering she is the only female character of any note in the film she had to hold her own which is more than does. A special mention for Spencer Treat Clark for his engaging performance at such a young age and therefore a very impressive child actor.

A truly incredible film that is well worth revisiting often as it really does have pretty much everything going for it. I actually loved that it doesn’t have much romance or love involved and sticks very much to the revenge that is at the core of the story.

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