a critiQal film review 300 (2006)

Plot: In the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, King Leonidas (Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army. Facing insurmountable odds, their valor and sacrifice inspire all of Greece to unite against their Persian enemy, drawing a line in the sand for democracy.

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  • ...its stunning visualizations are enhanced by solid acting and a compelling storyline.

After the success of Sin City (2005), Frank Miller’s stories are suddenly in high demand. The trailer for 300 got me psyched enough that I’ve decided to make it my birthday movie this year – despite never reading the graphic novel by Frank Miller or really hearing much about The Battle Of Thermopylae.

Gerard Butler, who most have seen only in supporting roles in Reign of Fire (2002), Timeline (2003) and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life (2003), really steps into the limelight in 300 as he portrays Leonidas, the King of Sparta. Headstrong and self-assured as his character is, he also is a realist, and knows that what he and his 300 men face are overwhelming odds they probably will not survive. Gerard does a brilliant job of portraying this proud king, and shows viewers that he is definitely leading man material.

Lena Headey, who most viewers probably have never heard of before (she was largely forgettable in her previous roles in The Brothers Grimm, The Cave (2005), etc.) also steps it up for 300 as her Queen of Sparta fights against the bias of her city to fight for help for her husband. With every step she takes, she knows her husband’s life may depend on her, and does everything in her power to aid him in his fight.

300 is full of action-packed sequences, as this tiny force faces unbelievable odds in the form of the Persian Army. Whether they are bracing for impact as the first wave rushes towards them, or fighting their way forward through the throngs of enemies, the action is intense and incredibly brutal.

Yet, despite all the action, the storyline is never lost in the melee. The viewer is reminded continuously that these few men are defending their kingdom from the tyrannic rule the Persians are trying to impose on them, and that back home in Sparta, the Queen is fighting her own battles to bring them aid. It’s impressive that though 300 is filled with more action and brutality than most are used to, the storyline and the true spirit of this warrior kingdom is never forgotten.

Animation and live-action are blended seamlessly together for the first time in 300. While The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and its sequels made great advances in this area, there were a few flubs to remind viewers that everything was not in fact live. In 300 there are absolutely none. Everything looks real, and the viewer will not even realize what parts are animated. They may guess the large animals probably are, but the viewer will never suspect that some of the sequences (including the Spartans forcing part of the Persian army over a cliff) are also animated.

300 is shot with a different kind of photography technique (and probably lots of editing in post-production) to create a visually stimulating movie that will remain in the viewer’s mind long after the film ends. With this photography bringing it’s colors more vibrantly to life, viewers will be stunned at how crisp and clear each and every scene is – this is a film that may convince viewers to finally buy an HD TV, just to experience the film in all it’s brilliance. This vibrancy makes it seem like the viewer is watching an artistic masterpiece, and just has to be seen to be believed.

Some may be a bit squeamish when first subjected to the rough life of Sparta (an opening sequence shows what they do to weak or malformed newborns), but, it does present how harsh a life these Spartans have, and sets the stage for the rest of 300. These Spartans are a warrior breed, and the brutality that war brings is with them every day of their lives. But they know that however rough their life may be, they fight for one thing and one thing only: freedom. That is their overriding concern, and that shows through in everything they do.

While shockingly brutal at times, this adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel combines stunning visualizations with strong acting performances and a superb storyline, making 300 a film that should be seen on the big screen…and is a must-own when it hits DVD.

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