Volume 94, Issue 1

Friday, May 12, 2000


Tea Party prepared to take on Europe

Gladiator handily conquers all

Women-only festival

Beauty redefined

I Dreamed of Africaoffers one hell of a sedative

Braxton cranks up The Heat

Gladiator handily conquers all

Gazette file photo

Starring: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen
Directed By: Ridley Scott

By Aaron St. John
Gazette Staff

Since the release of Jaws in the summer of 1975, the summer has been known for its big, blockbuster releases. Every year, studios release dozens of big budget flicks, all designed to rake in big box office numbers.

Although there isn't anything inherently wrong with this strategy, it has resulted in mindless formula films that may be entertaining, but rarely have any substance. The days of the intelligent epic seem to have gone the way of the dodo.

Gladiator represents an attempt to change this pattern by recapturing the spirit and scope of the classic film. Despite a lengthy running time of two hours and forty-five minutes, this is a brilliant film that never once seems too long. It brings to mind the broad sweep of movies like The Wild Bunch and more obviously, Spartacus and Ben-Hur.

Set in ancient Rome, the film tells the story of Maximus (Russell Crowe), a greatly respected general who, betrayed by the empire's new Caesar, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), ends up in slavery fighting as a gladiator. The movie follows Maximus as he gradually becomes a famed warrior and attempts to get his revenge on Commodus. This leads to an exciting, fast-moving film that features several intense combat sequences.

Director Ridley Scott, the man behind such classic flicks as Alien and Blade Runner, has created yet another masterpiece with Gladiator. As is the norm with this man's work, it is a visually stunning piece. The sets, costumes and cinematography are all absolutely flawless – this is a remarkably gorgeous film. Scott has also managed to tame a complex and multi-layered story that could have potentially resulted in an obtuse mess and produced a well paced, enthralling movie.

The performances coaxed out of the cast are uniformly brilliant. Russell Crowe is quickly establishing himself as a major screen presence and his portrayal of Maximus is nothing short of brilliant. He perfectly captures the balance of a man who is both peaceful and violent. Joaquin Phoenix delivers a competent performance, although he comes off as more whiny than evil. A problem, since his character is the film's major antagonist. The supporting cast is excellent. Richard Harris contributes a brief but solid performance while Oliver Reed, in his final movie appearance before his death is also superb as a relentless slave driver.

Gladiator is an instant classic – it's a wonderful movie that is the first must-see film of the year. If all is right in the world, this movie will signal a change in the way Hollywood makes movies, and provide more films of this calibre in the future.

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