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300
Genre Action
Year: 2006
 
Review:
300 is essentially the story of how 300 Spartans defeated an army of Persians at least 20 times their number. The Battle of Thermopylae was dramatised as a historical war adventure in The 300 Spartans (1962). Frank Miller was inspired by this story and film, and interpreted it in his graphic novel called 300. Years later, we have the follow-up to the smash hit Frank Miller adaptation of Sin City with 300.

Except this isn’t any old remake, this is refreshing cinematic brilliance. The comic book feel is ingrained in the retelling of this classic story of heroism. King Leonidas is forced to dispatch 300 of his personal guard to withstand an attack by the Persians. Leonidas sends forth the message that Sparta will not concede any “earth and water” by murdering a Persian diplomatic messenger and several guards. The Spartans have their own set of rules, and freedom is worth whatever blood is lost in preserving it. Against the council’s wishes, King Leonidas rounds up 300 of his best men with the help of Captain (Vincent Reagan). After trying to appease the evil ones and oracles with gold, he spearheads an attack, which accounts for the annihilation of the Persian army. The 300 men fight as a unit and their superior military strategy and strength shines through the dark chasm of destiny. Miller’s unique artwork is translated whole-heartedly onto the big screen. Epic clashes of light, sepia, black, red and white spill across the screen as this visual effect masterpiece gathers momentum. It’s full of testosterone and is compelling in it’s violent, timeless and crunching infusion of story, performance and effects.

300 was filmed in 60 days, and a grueling effort by several special effects companies, reduced post-production to a year. There are about 1500 cuts in 300, and 1300 of them use a special effects transition. This should give you an idea of how laborious the process of giving it a distinct quality and feel must have taken. Frank Miller’s graphic novels are represented in all their fullness, and it’s like pressing play on each of the pages. The visuals aren’t the same as Sin City, but the CGI gives 300 a hyper-reality that is faithful to Miller’s artwork. The soundtrack is also rich and complements the visuals as best it can.

This is not a thinking person’s film. It’s all blood-swilling, heart pounding action and glory as the Spartans thrust themselves at death. This suicide mission is not in vain, and to avoid spoiling the film, I’ll reserve my comments on the conclusion. It’s not for everyone. If you’ve seen the trailer you’ll immediately know if it’s your “cup of tea” or not. It’s like Gladiator on steroids multiplied by 300. In fact, each of the main characters went through a tough 6 week training programme to get in shape for their roles. Their bodies are well-sculpted and prevalent throughout the film, just like in Miller’s art.

Gerard Butler plays King Leonidas in an epic, detached, brave and patriotic fashion. At times, you can notice his accent trailing lines, but overall his performance is powerful and convincing. As for the rest of the cast, it’s a pool of relative unknowns. Rising star, Lena Headey, commands the powerful but provocative role of Queen Gorgos, and at times you wonder who’s really ruling 300? Rodrigo Santoro, from Lost, is Xerxes like you’ve never seen him before. You may also recognise David Wenham, who plays Helios. He’s really packed on some serious muscle since the days of playing the timid Carl in Van Helsing.

Director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) represents a new wave of directors, who are giving special effects their due in an age when the impossible feels so much more possible on celluloid. This is definitely a landmark film for him, and won’t be the last comic book transition he directs.

300 is biblical in its proportions and epic with it’s footprint in reality. Although the realms of history and reality are stretched in this film, all is done for visual appeal and in the name of cool. Comic book fans will watch it twice, action film junkies will love the fresh look and Frank Miller fans will preorder the DVD. It’s the sort of film that was meant to be screened in a commercial cinema, and the imagery is like a comic book got the Frankenstein makeover. If you liked the trailer, Sin City or war movies with heroics and graphic violence then you’ll find some serious value in 300. I did find that the narrative started to swirl after the three-quarter mark, but it was probably in keeping with Frank Miller’s graphic novel.

If comic books, blood, industrial music and war aren’t your scene, you could always try something a little more conservative like Driving Miss Daisy. Definitely not for sensitive viewers or the impressionable.

The bottom line: Revolutionary.

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