Starring: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Oliver Reed, Derek Jacobi, Richard Harris
THE mainstays of the 1950 cinematic revival were the Cinemascope epics Demetrius and the Gladiator, Spartacus, Pompeii, Barabus, Ben Hur and The Robe. These films kept a generation enthralled and pretended to tell us about ancient Rome.
In many respects Gladiator is a noble successor to these epics. David Fanzoni and John Logan have also maintained the tradition developed in these films that one does not let the truth stand in the road of a good story.
[The problem with the storyline in this film is that it is not true, not even vaguely true.]
Gladiator does for Roman conquests what Saving Private Ryan did for the D-Day invasion. There is no holding back in portraying the force and brutality of a Roman attack or a gladiatorial contest. It also shows the brutality of life for slaves, the poor and gladiators in this immorally blood-thirsty society.
Director Ridley Scott rarely makes a film without a contemporary punch to pack.
There are many things to recommend this film, though. Technically, it is outstanding. It uses computer-generated images to brilliantly portray what ancient Rome looked liked. The art direction, costumes, soundtrack and musical score are rich, complex and intelligent. This distinguished cast’s acting is good, even if Russell Crowe’s broad Australian accent seems out of place.
For all the simulated violence in Gladiator there is also a highly moral message in it.
If Gladiator was 20 minutes shorter, less violent (we get the idea after the opening war scene) and did not try to pretend that it is remotely historical, it could have stopped me wanting Frank Thring to make a guest appearance and constantly thinking of Flying High’s Leslie Nielsen’s sinister, smirking question, “Do you like gladiator films?”