By Matthew Bitz
"Gladiator" is the type of film that made Hollywood what it is today.
The film is a broad, sweeping epic with stunning visual effects and riveting performances from the entire cast. It creates a totally immersive, believable, world with lush scenery, massive, awe-inspiring battles, an evil detestable villain, and a noble, doomed hero.
It's films like this one that created one of the most lucrative business in the world today. It is by far the best epic since "Braveheart."
Gladiator is set in 180 AD, and uses actual historical figures and happenings for its background, the events that take place in the film are fictional, but they do mesh well with the real history. The glorious Roman Empire is ruled by Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) who relis solely on his faithful general Maximus to repel the barbarians in Germania. Sick and dying, but determined to return to the people of Rome what was rightfully theirs, he appoints Maximus his successor with wishes to return Rome to a republic. Marcus' son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), upon finding out, kills Marcus and has Maximus slated for execution. But Maximus escapes and kills his captors, only to be sold as a slave to Proximo (Oliver Reed) and trained as a gladiator. After demonstrating amazing skill in the ring, he is taken to the Coliseum to fight in the festival games ordered by Commodus. Maximus vows then that he will kill Commodus and fulfill the wishes of Marcus.
I could fill up page after page with good things to say about this movie, like how the pace stays fast, how the battles are furious and disconcerting, how the entire city of Rome is absolutely visually stunning. Or how Russell Crowe proves his worth by delivering a memorable performance and Ridley Scott makes his return to directing in style. So all I will say is that you are going to miss a great movie, if you don't catch this one while it's in town. The only thing that keeps me from giving this 10 out of 10 is that it is full of graphic medieval violence and that younger kids should not watch this, as it gets very bloody.
Still, I found myself getting caught up and wanting to get up, throw popcorn in the air and cheer like mad for this masterfully told story.