Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The Roman epic. A bunch were made throughout the 1950s and 60s. after the 1960s were through, so was the Roman epic. But Gladiator brought it back.

Victorious general Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) has been named keeper of Rome and its empire by dying emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), much to the dismay of Marcus' power-hungry son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Angered by the decision, Commodus murders Marcus and orders to have Maximus executed. Maximus escapes, but is sold into slavery and is forced to become a gladiator.

FUCK, it is good. Crowe is awesome, but I'm wondering if he really deserved the Oscar (IMO, he should have won for A Beautiful Mind). But honestly, the centerpiece performance of Gladiator is not Crowe's but Phoenix's. His performance as the twisted Commodus really gets under your skin. The scene where he tells Marcus his reaction to being overlooked as Rome's emperor is both haunting and devastating. I did like Benicio del Toro's work in Traffic, but I would've been beyond satisfied had Phoenix won that year. As I was watching Gladiator, I detected a few references to past "sword and sandal" movies, particularly Spartacus. Oh yeah, one more thing. The look on Commodus' face when Maximus reveals who he is: priceless.

My Rating: ****1/2

1 comment:

  1. Phoenix is wonderfully demented in this. I think the character's eccentric qualities, and incestuous tendencies, were a bit too much for the more mainstream Academy voters (you know that same group that somehow managed to get Blind Side a best picture nomination). I wonder if in film history Roman epics took the place for the WW2 epics that dominated the 50's and sort of trickled out through the 60's and 70's.


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