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Film review: 300

Category: 300 Reviews
Article Date: March 22, 2007 | Publication: Newbury Today | Author: Mike Beharrell

Posted by: stagewomanjen

Looking for blood and gore - this is just the film for you. Want any genuine feeling and you'll be disappointed.

In media studies (something some Government ministers think is a waste of time), there is a phenomenon called desensitisation, which is when people, faced with excessive amounts of violence, become numbed by it.
Watching the opening 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan can dull the sharp edges of hundreds of people being ripped apart in a number of horrible ways. Another film with the same effect was Sin City, where comic book characters rip holes in each other with gay abandon.
This film - 300 - like Sin City, is a film derived from a Frank Miller novel, except this time, the action is based in ancient Greece, not modern Gotham, but the effect on the audience is exactly the same – drowned in blood, gore and brutality until the mental reactometer is barely registering.
Sin City, despite its violence, gained much-deserved applause for the startling and innovative visual effects, creating the image of people jumping straight out of a comic book page. In terms of its cinematography, it was one of the most inventive films for many years.
Based around the legendary fighting process of the Spartans defending the pass at Thermoplyae against the invading Persian hordes of Xerxes in 480 BC, 300 travels the same visual path, accompanied by an even greater quota of guts and gore.
The film opens with the story of how men wearing little more than a few pieces of armour (curiously just around their lower legs) and carrying very big swords, spears and shields, manage to win all the fights down the pub because they fight dirty – all together as a phalanx.
It tells how Spartan King Leonidas would not kneel to Xerxes and was the victim of conspiracy at home and treachery in battle.
And in a new and compelling way, it tells the 2,500-year-old story of how a few brave and stubborn men died for something in which they believed.
As this is the kind of story that makes a good film, director Zack Snyder should have had a real winner on his hands – especially as Frank Miller assisted with the screenplay.
And the audience at a packed Basingstoke special preview also thought it was going to be a winner and, to be honest, most left pretty well satisfied.
Gerald Butler, complete with stiff beard and stomach muscles to die for, plays proud and touchy Leonidas with great presence, surrounded as he is with the largest known collection of airbrushed six-packs on the planet.
His Queen, sultry Gorgo (played by Lena Headey), flashes her eyes and bears a telling resemblance to Maximus’ wife in Gladiator.
Xerxes (Roderigo Santoro) gives the Persian a gay lunatic edge, and apart from a couple of barely-sketched bit parts, the rest are anonymous action pieces with bodies flying everywhere.
The action sequences themselves are beautifully crafted with ‘slo-mo’ frequently used to highlight the fighting.
However, herein lay the film’s main – and important – weakness. Taken as it is from Miller’s graphic and inevitably simplistic book, and given that it is shown in a beautiful ‘comic-book’ style, it is hard to identify with, or feel sympathy for, any of the characters because they are as shallow as the drawings on a page.
Feeling any emotion as one of the Spartans has his head chopped off, is pointless, because the guy does not appear real. None of the blood and gore means anything, because it is too comic book.
Overall, if you are into blood, gore and simple battle action, this is a great film and just for you.
However, anyone who wants some genuine feeling – like Spielberg manages after the opening of Saving Private Ryan with great success – will not find it in 300.


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