Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: David Franzoni, John Logan, Willian Nicholson
“What we do in life, echoes in eternity.” I’ve always thought that quote was incredible and it set the tone for this movie. This movie blew everybody away in 2000 and won all the awards including Best Picture and Best Actor for Russell Crowe. I was in high school at the time and it set quite an impression on me. It immediately became my favorite epic film of the “swords and sandals” genre as I have heard it described. It had that effect on nearly everyone, it is a powerful movie. It’s about power, and revenge, and like all good “swords and sandals” movies it’s about courage and honor.
This movie made Russell Crowe a superstar, he had been on the rise for some time but this was what put him over the top. I think he has made many great movies since but in my opinion this was his peak as an actor. He might have made many great films since but none so great as this. As Maximus he commanded respect on and off the screen. I think people started to think that he was the great and noble character that he played in the film. I remember when he started beating people up in the real world it was such a shocker, but I happened to think that worked well for him as it encouraged me to see his upcoming film Cinderella Man. With this film Crowe used up the last of his youth, I have always felt he looked so much older since. I can say that he got the most out of it though, he gave a great performance that was due all the credit it got. Crowe has worked many more times with Ridley Scott but they haven’t been able to match what they did with this movie, although they have made some good films since.
As great as Crowe was in this movie I have always thought Joaquin Phoenix brought just as much to the movie. He was terrific as Commodus and despite all his problems he is a great actor. I am always afraid that there will suddenly be breaking news that he has died just as his brother River Phoenix did. Phoenix obviously has had serious problems with drugs, but he has always managed to keep it together for his movie roles. I think he thrives playing really complex characters and this film is no different. Commodus is a child in a man’s body, a little boy that desperately wanted his father’s approval and failed to achieve it. He is angry and cruel, he is weak but unpredictable in a way that makes him very dangerous. He has the power and nothing is scarier than power wielded by someone like Commodus. Phoenix lost the Academy Award to Benicio Del Toro for his role in Traffic. I have always thought that was a load of crap, the award should have went to Phoenix, he deserved it. I like Del Toro but you can barely understand anything he says and I have always thought Traffic was overrated.
This film is not even remotely historically accurate but I don’t think that matters, it doesn’t in any way claim to be based on fact. There was a real Marcus Aurelius and a real Commodus but none of this happened the way we see it in the movie, or at all. Richard Harris did a great job playing Aurelius. He has a noble aura about him that makes him great for roles like this. I think the Harry Potter films really suffered when he died, he was great as Dumbledore and left big shoes to fill. Djimon Hounsou was great as Juba. I thought bigger things were ahead of him when I saw him in this film but he hasn’t lived up to my initial expectations. Connie Nielsen looked the part and performed admirably as the lone female role in the movie. Oliver Reed also played an exceptional part in the role of Proximo.
This is a great movie and it will always be important to me for the lessons it taught me as a teen. Russell Crowe’s character of Maximus sets a good example for all young men. He is heroic and brave, he does what is right instead of simply what he is told, and he perseveres when things get difficult. Those are qualities that we should all study and take something away from. This kind of epic movie is the type that always appeals to me so I fit nicely into the target audience. If you like these types of movies then this is definitely worth your time, and if it isn’t your type it would still be worth your time to see it.
Some movies really speak to people and some movies don’t. This movie speaks to Ryan. I cannot say the same. I have tried to watch this movie so many times and every single time I get bored and stop paying attention. This is yet another movie that I don’t like that makes people look at me and say, “Really?” I don’t know anyone else that doesn’t like this movie, so I know that I am the odd ball out.
The scenery looks amazing and so does Russell Crowe, but like I said, I get bored every time. The movie poster for this movie is actually quite nice, however. There is a lot of symbolism. Notice how he is large compared to The Colosseum. They are trying to portray this idea that even The Colosseum doesn’t amount to this Gladiator’s glory. He is larger than life and can’t be stopped. The costume is perfect, the color is great and the typography of “Gladiator” is a nice serif font with an ever prevalent movie style texture to the font, which stands there just as boldly as The Gladiator himself.
NEXT MOVIE: The Godfather (1972)