← Back to Reviews
#137 - Gladiator
Ridley Scott, 2000

During the time of the Roman empire, a general is betrayed and reduced to being a slave who becomes a gladiator in order to achieve his revenge.

This is my first time watching Gladiator in more than a decade and, watching it now, I can't help but be a little underwhelmed. Russell Crowe gets a fairly physical role as the titular warrior, but it's not like his actual acting here is all that impressive. Joaquin Phoenix makes for a solid antagonist as an appropriately petulant ruler whose blatantly bastardly behaviour covers for an extremely miserable young man. Other actors frequently come to the fore - Oliver Reed is good as the slave-master who brings Crowe into his service, Djimon Hounsou makes for a good offsider and Connie Nielsen is good as Phoenix's sister who is no less of a threat to her enemies while still having a decent emotional core. One of my main issues with the distance between viewings is how I barely remember anything between the beginning of the third act and its ending. Turns out I'm not missing all that much. At least the first two acts are solid enough as Crowe is dishonoured and starts to fight his way to notoriety. Given how much of a stickler for technical competence that Scott is, some of that doesn't quite come across in this film. The slow-motion could be better and the CGI-heavy establishing shots of the Colosseum don't hold up that well these days. At least the fast-paced combat scenes are shot through with vigour, I suppose. It's too inconsistent a film to truly be considered a classic, Best Picture win be damned (did the Academy want another Braveheart or what?). Definitely fun in parts, to be sure, but when its ambition outstretches its reach then there's a problem.