300 (2007)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 56 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Graphic Battle Sequences Throughout, Some Sexuality and Nudity

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Directed by: Zack Snyder

Written by: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, Michael Gordon

(based on the graphic novel 300 by Frank Miller & Lynn Varley)

Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender, Tom Wisdom, Andrew Pleavin, Andrew Tiernan, Rodrigo Santoro, Stephen McHattie

Sparta was a city-state in ancient Greece and had an unrelenting way of life. Men were bred to fight from birth. The way of thinking was “Come back with your shield or come back on it.” There was no retreat, no surrender, and to die in the battlefield was the greatest glory a Spartan soldier could achieve. In 480 BC, King Leonidas of Sparta marched 300 of his finest soldiers out to a narrow passageway known as the Hot Gates. This battle waged for three days and became known as the Battle of Thermopylae. This history makes great material for a cinematic treatment. Sure enough, 300 is a hyper-violent, ultra-stylized, historical-accuracy-be-damned experience based on a popular graphic novel. Like SIN CITY (also penned by Frank Miller), 300 manages to literally capture the spirit of the source material frame-by-frame and it looks absolutely stunning. This was a revolutionary cinematic achievement and many films that have come since owe a lot to the way in which it was shot. 300 is pure spectacle and taken as such, it’s absolutely awesome!

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Trained from a young age to fight and kill if necessary, Leonidas is the great king of Sparta. When a Persian messenger arrives at the city gates demanding that the Spartans bow before Xerxes, a Persian king fancying himself a God, it spurns Leonidas to seek the advice of the Oracle. His request to go to war is denied, but in spite of this, Leonidas takes his 300 finest soldiers out to the Hot Gates. This is a place where numbers count for nothing. Leonidas and his brave 300 hold off the massive Persian army for as long as they can. A three-day long battle ensues, whilst Queen Gorgo tries to rally her countrymen for her husband’s cause!

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300 is absolutely one of the best action movies of the new millennium. It mixes the formula of a war epic with outrageous style. The entire film is executed with a stunning visuals that keep the color schemes beautiful, the blood plentiful, and makes every scene downright cool! It’s not so much a film for those wanting a historically accurate depiction of the battle. Quite a few fantasy elements are thrown in. It is a movie for those wanting to kick back and watch a kick-ass ride with amazing visuals. That’s who this film is made for and it delivers!

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Seeing as the story mostly follows men bred for war from day one, the film does a great job of getting you to care for those of the 300 we do see. This includes Leonidas himself, his best friends, a captain and his son, along with some others. A couple of familiar faces who have since gone on to bigger things appear too. Michael Fassbender plays Stelios (though names of the soldiers really aren’t too important in this film) and has some of the best lines in the film. Gerard Butler displays the best performance as Leonidas and wins over the viewer with his view of combat. Xerxes says “I would kill any one of my men without a second’s notice” and Leonidas replies “And I would gladly die for any one of mine.” That’s all we needed to get us to care about this man and his army. Performances are solid from everybody, but the dialogue is great as well. Some lines are nothing short of brilliant. One of my favorite scenes is a meeting between Leonidas and Xerxes which takes plenty of jabs taken at this supposed God-king’s expense.

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As far as complaints go, the battle sequences and scenes with the Spartan warriors talking amongst themselves are way more interesting than any of the politics Gorgo goes through in the city. Luckily, Zack Snyder knew this and let’s the battle take up the majority of screen time, instead of Gorgo’s rallying of her countrymen. Otherwise, I don’t have a bad thing to say about 300. It’s definitely made for a certain audience and is a visual feast, not a war movie that provides thought-provoking looks at the horrific violence brought on by it.

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300 is pure spectacle. That’s what it is and it was never meant to be anything more. Taken as such, this film is absolutely amazing! The visual style has gone on to be replicated in other films (most noticeably, IMMORTALS, a take on Greek mythology from the same producers). It’s packed full of crazy action scenes and filled to the brim with stylized violence. This is pure bloody entertainment and should entrance generations for years to come!

Grade: A

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