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Brutal, but beautifully so

Category: 300 Reviews
Article Date: July 31, 2007 | Publication: Detroit Free Press | Author: Terry Lawson
Source: Detriot Free Press

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'300' offers a thrilling history lesson, comic-book style

The copy on the packaging for "300," released in a double-disc wide-screen edition (****, Warner, $34.98), claims that this retelling of the battle of Thermopylae "assaults the screen," and for once the hyperbole is on the money.

Using the same hybrid of animation and live action as "Sin City," which also was based on a hyper-violent Frank Miller graphic novel, "300" found a lot larger audience, not because it is a better film, but because the bloodshed here is in service of real legend.

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It's the story of the city-state's stand against the invading Persians, when 300 soldiers held off an attack by hundreds of thousands at the "hot gates," led by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler, wiping away any memory of his softie turn in "The Phantom of the Opera.")

To complain that this isn't history is churlish and disingenuous: This is the comic book version, souped up with buff, half-naked warriors, a sexy queen (Lena Hedley) and gushers of blood, but its exaggeration works in its favor, working as a psychic safety valve against the carnage.

Thanks to the CGI animation world on which the actors do battle, "300" is also the most visually arresting movie in the year; even in its most graphic brutality, you can't take your eyes off the thing. There is a BluRay version that was not supplied for review; I guess I'll have to buy it with my own money.

Extras include a commentary by director Zach Snyder, an Easter Egg featurette that traces the evolution of the film from comics to the computers to screen and a 25-minute "Fact or Fiction" debate with filmmakers and historians.

To get a better overview, try "Last Stand of the 300: The Legendary Battle of Thermopylae" (***, $19.95, A&E), first broadcast on the History Channel.

 


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