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Movie Review: 300

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No, not the Michigan State basketball team in March – this Spartan experience bathes the screen with war while slashing away box office records last weekend with a 70 million dollar plus opening. Loosely based on Frank Miller's 1998 graphic novel series 300 (Miller was himself inspired by the 1962 film The 300 Spartans), the plot follows the Spartans’ homeland defense against invading Persians.

300 delivers a memorable musical score and the standard cast of accomplished British/Scottish actors (all with decidedly darkened features), capable of delivering emotional pleas and tirades. Their dialogue/narration only touches on history, like referring to the 300 Spartans as “descendants of Hercules” without any specific dates or obvious timelines, which are quickly mentioned in some dialogue scenes.

Persian King Xerxes, played by Rodrigo Santoro (Lost television series, Love Actually) leads an army of 100,000 plus, including “the immortals” who have a martial arts-like fighting style. The voice-altered Santoro makes his presence known as a harsh, gloating leader who seeks every advantage possible. “I grant pleasures for I am kind,” he says while trying to sway a key character to gain a strategic battle advantage.

The world's first democracy rises from this seemingly impossible challenge as Spartan King Leonidas, played by Gerard Butler (Lara Croft and the Cradle of Life, Phantom of the Opera) bravely defends his people. Like in Apollo 13 and Titanic, most audiences know how this war ends, so it's the journey that becomes paramount as each protagonist’s redeeming values shine creating the first hopeful rays of sunshine through evil’s dark clouds.

“A new age has come, an age of freedom. And all will know that 300 Spartans gave their last breath to defend it,” says Leonidas who demonstrates great care for Spartans as a group and individually, a backbone of any democracy.

Leonidas’ Captain played by Vincent Regan (Troy, Unleashed) strikes a memorable emotional tone as a personal tragedy exemplifies each warrior’s dichotomy between his family/personal desires and duty for the good of all. David Wenham (Van Helsing, Lord of the Rings) plays Dilios, another faithful Spartan soldier who also serves as the film’s narrator.

Lena Headey (The Cave, Waterland) plays Leonida’s wife, Queen Gorgo, who provides strong support for her husband and wisely represents “voices that can’t be heard” in the local government. “Let your choices reflect their bravery,” she pleads to the all male regime, including the conniving Theron, played by Dominic West (The Forgotten, The Wire television series).

The beginning sets the tone of a harsh world where babies are discarded if not deemed strong and then become “baptized in the fire of combat.” Once you understand the warrior point of view, filmmakers quickly delve into Leonidas’ important progression of decision-making. Leonidas trusts reason instead of the corrupt, creature-like Ephors who’ve always approved every major Spartan military campaign, and their future telling “oracles”.

Once the battle begins, director Zack Snyder creates some amazing on-screen action, which definitely speaks louder than words in this one hour and 56 minute epic, full of graphic violence, including a stab through the bicep and several beheadings.
Filmmakers use high speed-low speed combinations in several of the fighting sequences, creating an effective emotional window that puts the audience in the heat of the battle.

300
serves as a decent remediation of previous battle films like Gladiator, Braveheart and even Hero while touching on predictable themes of democracy, tyranny, materialism, self sacrifice and honor.

This film was shot in 60 days, mostly in Montreal, Canada, and involved several special effects green screen shots (actually mostly blue screens) blending the real actors and pseudo sets. After filming ended, the film required almost one full year of post-production. Recommended and rated R for graphic battles, nudity, violence and sexuality, including a forced act, which filmmakers rightly portray as an ugly act without any beautiful visuals.

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  • http://www.zannel.com Oscar

    I saw 300 last weekend and thought it was amazing. I never read the graphic novel that it was based around. What intrigued me to see this film was the way that it was filmed. I felt like I was watching a comic book come to life right on the screen. It was totally innovative and I hope that more action movies start to film in this format.

    After the movie, I was wanting to see how everything was filmed. Since it was done in such a short amount of time especially compared to other action blockbusters and has such amazing “special effects.” I found some really great behind the scenes videos and pictures on Zannel. You can even send the content to your phone which is really cool, not to mention that the content on its own is pretty awesome.

    If you like the movie, then you should definitely check out what Zannel has about 300.

  • Karen

    I saw the movie yesterday 3/13/07 and thought it was the best 2007 film so far. I see a lot of movies and although I like mostly all, I loved this one. I was captivated by the picture as it appeared that I was supposed to be flipping pages and I could not wait till the next one. The actor that played Leonidas was great as well as his Queen. They sold it for me. The love story was unlike any other as it seemed real and as it should be. At one point in the movie a messenger ask Leonidas what he wants relayed to his loved ones. He looks and says “no words need be spoken”. I believe in that and in the way this character lived his life. If you love someone tell them when you’re there. Not when facing emminent danger and possible loss of life.
    Great Movie. I will see it again.