Category: 300 Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 23, 2007 | Publication: Daily Record | Author: editors
Publication/Article Link:http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/

Scot Gerard Butler shines in Hollywood's latest swords and sandals blockbuster 300 **** 15

LOOK up "spartan" in the dictionary, and it describes conditions that are "simple and sometimes harsh".

It might also refer you to the ancient city of Sparta and a race of warriors who were famous for their fearless ability to endure any amount of discomfort.

It's those Spartans who are the stars of this comic-bookmeets-action-epic blockbuster.

Based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 takes the swords-and-sandals world of Gladiator, Troy and Alexander on to a new visual level.

Robert Rodriguez's adaptation of Sin City matches the black-andwhite woodcut-print look of Miller's original pages. Zack Snyder's screen take on 300 is also visually amazing, with burnished bronze and steel-blue washes across every frame.

Unlike Russell Crowe's tiger tussles in Gladiator's computer recreated Colosseum, 300 doesn't aim for realism. Here human actors and CGI graphics combine to form a fantasy world where muscle men in bright red cloaks take on enemy hordes that include half-monsters who seem to have slipped out of horror video games.

I'm fairly sure that, even in 480 BC, the Persian Army didn't contain a giant with forearms like crab claws, but somehow this ferocious figure fits into the hyper-stylised world of the film.

In fact, thanks to the voiceover that's wrapped around the story, 300 feels more like an ancient myth than ahistory lesson. Throughout the movie, Dilios (David Wenham) recounts the heroic feats of King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his soldiers. They've already become legends by the time the words come out of Dilios' mouth.

Threatened by the advance of the Persian Empire, Leonidas takes 300 of his crack troops into battle against hundreds of thousands of enemies.

The odds are outrageous, but the Spartans win victory after victory because they are free men fighting against slaves. Their ruthless training as boys has hardened them into the most effective killing machines the ancient world has known.

They fight for their friends and fellow citizens, matching awesome strength with tactical brilliance and unswerving loyalty.

While the Persian bodies pile up at the Battle of Thermopylae, Leonidas' wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), is involved in a stealthier fight back home. She tries to persuade Sparta's council to send more soldiers to her husband's aid, but treacherous, lustful senator Theron (Dominic West) has a different agenda.

It's here that, in among all of the fantasy action, the film adds something relevant to current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Corrupt politicians lining their own pockets and betraying our boys on the battlefield? Surely not.

As Leonidas, Glasgow-born actor Gerard Butler strides around showing off stomach muscles that wouldn't be out of place on a marble statue. Eyes aflame with fierce pride and intelligence, he barks out orders but has his tender moments.

It's a heroic performance of epic proportions, perfectly suited to the over-the-top action on show.

After a couple of early mishaps (Dracula 2000, Tomb Raider 2), Butler has gone from Scottish drama Dear Frankie to No.1 at the US box office. Hats - or maybe that should be helmets - off to him for keeping his Scottish accent intact in the midst of these ancient battles.

The brutal fight scenes are part of 300's mainstream appeal. You get a lot of severed heads for your '15' certificate these days - and they're just the gory tip of the iceberg.

Limbs are hacked off, arrows pierce flesh and blood splashes across the screen. Computeranimated blood, that is, because the censors are strangely lenient when it comes to fantasy violence.

Undoubtedly the best thing about 300 is how astonishingly distinctive it looks. Somehow Snyder, who directed the excellent Dawn Of The Dead remake, has slipped a bloodthirsty art movie under the radar, passing it off as an action blockbuster.

If classical history was always like this, there would be queues outside the classroom door.