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Review #121: Gladiator

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, instead of allowing his son Commodus to take the throne when he dies, he is giving the position to a powerful Roman General called Maximus Decimus Meridius.
Upon learning of his father's 'treachery', Commodus murders his own father before word gets out that Maximus is to be the successor to the throne.
Commodus then takes the throne and orders the execution of Maximus and his family, but Maximus actually ends up in the hands of North African slave traders.
There, he is thrown into the harsh world of slavery and Gladiatorial combat...

... but Maximus' natural fighting prowess (through being a successful Army General) shine through and make a celebrity of him in the brutal circles of Gladiators and slaves, which will eventually lead him and his band of Gladiator Brothers to the Colosseum...

... for the ultimate battle of wits, skill and sharpened steel.

Ridley Scott's epic historical, even though several Historians were hired to aid in writing the movie, is far from accurate when telling the true events of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Even many of the names included in the movie are also wrongly depicted throughout.
They have taken many elements of past inaccurate movies and books and added their own little twists and turns and have created the typical Hollywood flash and bang, awe inspiring popcorn flick.
It's very similar in accuracy as the other Ridley/Crowe collaberation, Robin Hood.
Gladiator however, is far better than Robin Hood, even though both contain the same mistakes and inaccuracies.

A lot of the changes to history are actually down to Scott saying that the truth is more weird and is actually less believeable than some of the liberties they took.

What Gladiator revels in though, is sheer scope of the story, breathtaking scenery and incredibly exciting battles.

The movie starts out with a bang, then goes relatively quiet and tells the story first, then does the usual screenplay thing of getting larger and larger in the action stakes as the movie progresses.
The story itself though, doesn't take a backseat to the action either. Instead, it adds more plotlines and a different depth to the storytelling and gives the viewer an incredibly strong connection to all of the characters seen throughout, including even the smaller supporting roles.

There's a number of CG shots contained throughout, especially in the third act of the film as the action and battles get larger. It also contains incredible detail for accuracy.
The Colosseum really is one of movie history's greatest scenes.

The acting is also some of the best you'll ever see in a movie of this type.
Russell Crowe as Maximus is obviously the standout role. The tortured hero made it to #6 in my Top 20 Heroes. Being honest, Crowe is probably at his best.
Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus is another top piece of acting. His spoilt brat and smarmy persona really shines through and makes a villain to really despise.
Djimon Hounsou makes a nice appearance as Juba, Maximus' new best pal.

Oliver Reed really makes the biggest impression though as Antonius Proximo, the owner of the Gladiators (including Maximus). In his final role (Reed died during production), he makes the viewer hate him, then love him, then adore him with his tales of his own past and the stories he tells of his own inner torment and even enlightenment. He's very good.

Support comes from Connie Nielsen, Ralph Moller, Tommy Flanagan, Derek Jacobi, David Schofield and the wonderful Richard Harris.

The overall action side of things though, as I said, is top drawer and the choreography is exceptionally good.
Most of it is live action with the odd backdrop of CGI and the whole lot is combined perfectly.
The last few battles are also very exciting too.

All in all, the best Roman Epic to be put to screen. Though seriously inaccurate, it's still very well written and exciting and the choreography is brilliant... and quite rightly, won 48 of the 119 Awards it was nominated for.
My rating 98%