I am a student of history and so I was more than intrigued by the movie 300 (2006) the graphic novel retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae in Greece written by Fran Miller. The year was 480 B.C., and a force of 300 Spartans from the now legendary city-state of Sparta under King Leonidas defends Greece (along with a force of three thousand or so allied Greek troops) from a Persian army led by one Xerxes. That Persian army numbered in the hundreds of thousands (some sources say the army numbered a million men or more), yet it was held at bay for days by the 300.
Directed by Zack Snyder (Dawn of The Dead 2004) 300 begins at the end around a campfire. At its center is a wizened battle-worn Spartan warrior, Dilios (David Wenham Van Helsing, The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King, Moulin Rouge), who is recounting an amazing tale of battle, glory, honor, deception, and magic. The stories hero is King Leonidas (Gerald Butler Rein of Fire, The Phantom of the Opera), the brave and prudent king of Sparta who willingly made the ultimate sacrifice for his family, convictions and freedom of Sparta's people.
Dilios weaves an amazing tale of how, when a boy, Leonidas slew a large mystical black wolf-like creature. The brave and battle hardened Leonidas went on to become the most competent swordsman, fighter and strategist Sparta ever knew. He grew into an able and just ruler (well by most), and the beloved husband of Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey The Brothers Grimm, The Remains of the Day). Sparta and all of Greece was at peace until the leader of Persia Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro Lost, Charles Angles: Full Throttle, Love Actually) lands on the shore of Greece with a rather large army.
Xerxes sends a messenger to Sparta seeking the city-states surrender, but Leonidas balks and dispatches the man and his guard; after-all Spartan men are bred for war and never surrender, never! After consulting his Senate Leonidas consults with the Oracle, a gorgeous, nubile Spartan beauty whose flawless body is divined by the Ephors, a counsel of ancient, leprous wise men, whom even the King of Sparta must consult with before going to war; it is Spartan law, and not even the King is above the law. The Oracle and the Ephors advise Leonidas not to go to war, neglecting to tell him of course that they have been bribed by the Persians to tell him such.
But Leonidas is determined to protect Sparta and his people so he assembles a band of 300 Spartan warriors (he calls them his personal body guard), all of which have male heirs, and sets off North to greet the Persian army. Along the way he is joined by a band of some 3000 Greeks.
History aside, 300 is a visual feast, and on that level alone well worth the price of a rental. Frank Miller the man who brought us the graphic novel Sin City, not to mention the resulting movie, has written a very compelling story complete with seriously gorgeous graphics. With more than a little help from CGI the film makers have turned 300 into, well a graphic novel with a look and fell not unlike the aforementioned Sin City.
There is no shortage of blood lust and battle prowess; the battle scenes are not to be missed with their slow monition sequences reminiscent of ballad. There is beauty in the bloodletting, and art to the killing of masses with its twisting limbs and muscled Spartan bodies dancing about the battlefield as one unit. Make no mistake this movie is rated R for a reason.
The images on the screen are crisp and clear, and despite the muted hues the gritty color palette manages to be beautiful and awe inspiring. The soundtrack is appropriately rousing in all the right places, and the costumes are works of art themselves, with an awe-inspiring attention to detail.
And the acting is first rate, and dead on. I never felt it was over the top; all of the actors developed a cadence that kept the film moving briskly along. Gerald Butler is excellent as King Leonidas; by the end I wanted to go into battle with him! His chiseled presence is at times mesmerizing and not to be missed.
300 is one of those movies I will eventually own and watch time and again.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age
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