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300 (2007)

by on 2010/11/22

“Submission . . . now that’s a bit of a problem.”

* * * *

Writing this review has been extremely hard. I’ve been putting it off for the past few days.

I crazily adore 300. To the point that nothing I write about this film seems quite right. Trying to sound rational, and not simply shout slogans from the movie at you, is well-nigh impossible for me. 300 is simply too important to me.

When life is nastier than invading hordes on angry, stampeding elephants, I turn to 300. Again and again and again. I keep this film carefully filed in my library like someone might store away canned peaches for a coming Apocalypse.

This 2007 film, directed by Zack Snyder who also directed the viscerally effective Dawn of the Dead (2004), features an career-defining performance from Gerard Butler as King Leonidas, flinty ruler of the Spartans in 480 B.C.

Based on a Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name, 300 chronicles the infamous Battle of  Thermopylae when 300 Spartan soldiers faced invading army of 1 million Persians. Hopelessly outmanned, Spartan politicians refusing to support a full-scale military action, a few brave soldiers, stand against waves of “immortal” Persian warriors – each squadron more deadly than the last – led by the “god-king” Xerxes played by the creepy-dangerous, Mazola-oil-coated Rodrigo Santoro.

Driving his multitudinous foes into a narrow mountain passage called Thermopylae (the Hot Gates), King Leonidas leads his small band of ruthlessly-efficient, born-and-bred warriors to defend Sparta’s freedom.  The entire story is narrated by Dilios, a surviving Spartan soldier, portrayed by David Wenham also of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) fame.

I have a serious fascination with medieval warfare, in 300 we learn all about the phalanx formation, Spartan soldiers covering their ranks with heavy shields, wielding long spears. Moving like a deadly armadillo, Leonidas’ force survives onslaughts of deadly Persian warriors, some mystical, some plain monstrous. The battle scenes offer moments of sublime violence. 300 is a great, bloody, breathtaking ballet.

What’s particularly unbelievable to me about this gorgeous film is that it was shot over 60 days in a bluescreen sound stage in Montreal. I found myself thinking early and often throughout the first few screenings that I’d hang just about any moment of the film, frozen in still form, on my wall.

Mostly I think the heart of this movie’s appeal for me is that it deals with courage in the face of insane tyranny. When offered a long life with his beautiful wife Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) in exchange for his complete submission, the enslavement of his people and loss of his land, Leonidas sacrifices everything he is and everything he wants defending Spartan freedom.

300 gives me a vicarious thrill of watching brave, principled characters standing up to vile dictators. With all the bullies that surround all of us every day, at work and at home, there’s 300 to give me just a little sliver of hope and the courage to keep fighting.

* * * *

Rated R for graphic battle scenes, sexuality and nudity.

117 minutes

  1. This was probably one of the most visually enjoyable movies I’ve ever seen. I didn’t pay as much attention to the story or the ass kicking or good one liners initially because I was so enamored by the how insane the cinematography was. Every viewing I watch now I think I enjoy it that much more. Good review, check out mine when you can!

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