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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Oscar Review: Gladiator (2000)

Winning 5 of its 12 nominations - including Best Picture, Actor (Russell Crowe), Costume Design, Sound, and Visual Effects - Gladiator was the biggest film in a year of big films that took audiences to the depths of the human spirit and the far corners of the world.

General Maximus (Crowe) is the head of Marcus Aurelius' (Richard Harris) Roman army that is sweeping across Europe. On the completion of yet another triumphant campaign, the emperor calls upon Maximus to be the one to return Rome to the people once again and names him the heir apparent to the throne.

When the emperor's power hungry son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) hears that he is not going to be Caesar, he murders his father and sends Maximus to be killed to ensure his ascendancy. But the evil doesn't end there. After thinking the powerful general dead, Commodus orders the killing Maximus' wife and son as well.

Returning home to find his family dead, Maximus is taken as a slave where he is forced to train to fight as a gladiator and to die for entertainment. Proving to be a formidable, albeit reluctant fighter, Maximus quickly rises to prominence on the gladiatorial circuit all the way to the Coliseum in Rome.

When Commodus' sister Lucilla (Connie Nielsen) learns that Maximus is still alive, she knows that he is the only one strong enough to take back the empire for the people and bring down the corruption that flourishes under her brother's rule.
Despite the countless historical inaccuracies of this film, Gladiator certainly entertains. It is visually interesting, has a decent balance between story and action and lives up to its epic nature.

Though I believe Tom Hanks deserved the Best Actor Oscar for Cast Away - his performance had much more depth and proved to be more compelling overall - Russell Crowe was in his element in this role, earning him the #50 spot on AFI's list of film heroes. (I still say that it wasn't his best performance on screen by far.)

Gladiator has something for everyone from the fight scenes to the adventure and drama of the plot. I may not go so far as to describe it as a great film, but it definitely has all the right elements for a really good movie.