300 (2007) – movie review

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Movie Review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West, Vincent Regan
Director: Zack Snyder

I have puzzled long and hard over this review. 300 is one of the most beautiful and terrible films I have seen recently. Not terrible in that it is bad. Far from it. It is well told, directed and acted by Zack Snyder and his cast of global warriors. What is terrible is that you don’t watch this film, you are assaulted by it. You may not love it – it is probably the most wilfully violent film I have seen – but you cannot help but admire it.

Like SIN CITY, another Frank Miller comic novel turned cinematic event, this shows a particular reality. It is a vicious one — a very black and white one both literally and metaphorically.

It is a story about War – the capital W is deliberate. This isn’t the moral minefield of Iraq or Vietnam. This is old-fashioned good (Spartans) versus bad (Persians). Our heroes are brave beyond reason – beautiful sculpted models of manhood. The Persians are deformed, masked or animals – literally – those elephants are evil!

Technically the film is faultless. Not only does it recreate ancient Sparta in detail down to the grains of sand using green screen and computer power but it manages to take you inside the battles. There are moments when you feel the thrust of the sword, when you get some idea of the thrill and fear of warfare. The camera dodges, spins and swoops. The action speeds, slows and stops to show the action from multiple perspectives.

As King Leonidas, Gerard Butler roars. He dispatches his lines with the same venom with which he kills his enemies. Lena Headey’s beefed up role as his Queen never feels forced and it does at least stop it from feeling like one long testosterone-fest.

The dialogue is all a bit “Shakespearean.” Even in the quite moments, the lines all feel as if they have quotation marks around, that they are worthy and important but not many people will watch this film for the dialogue.

Sit back and enjoy this film for what it is, one long and beautiful video game sequence. You may not have a joystick in your hand, but you will still feel involved and maybe even a little bit moved. You will certainly feel a bit bruised.

4 out of 6 stars