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Gladiator (2000) Review

I think with just about every medium of entertainment there’ll always be gaps in your knowledge. Whether it’s a certain album you’ve yet to listen to, a classic book you’ve yet to sift through or, in my case, a film you’ve yet to view. When it comes to what I write about (film, for those unaware), there’ll always be gaps in my knowledge. The best I can do to counteract this is to plug away at just about any film I can find, especially those that are held in extremely high regard. Gladiator is one of the films I’ve been meaning to get around to but for one fluke reason or another I’ve evaded completely.

Maybe I should stop putting off classic bits of modern cinema in the hopes of chasing down something that will, without a doubt, be absolutely awful. If I spent more time watching films as good as Gladiator then maybe I’d still enjoy what I do. That’s not fair, I do enjoy what I do, but every now and then you need a film to remind you that it isn’t all that futile to write about and review films. The Ridley Scott directed, Russell Crowe starring Gladiator is a crowning achievement for both its acclaimed star and veteran director.

Gladiator boast a bold cast, stacked to the brim with talented individuals. Crowe stars alongside Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielson, Oliver Reed and Richard Harris. All legends of the screen in their own way, with Harris recognisable to more sheltered cinema fans as Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets respectively. Each performer listed above gives a truly tremendous effort, bringing to life the ancient city of Rome, its traditions and its mannerisms. All of them come crashing together into performances that look to highlight the rise of Maximus Decimus Meridius, a former Roman general turned slave, who fights his way through colosseum combat.

I’ve never thought about how interested I used to be in Ancient Rome. Growing up reading Horrible Histories and also watching the Horrible Histories TV show infected me with a desire to learn more about the history that built the world. While Gladiator doesn’t exactly do that, especially considering it implies imperialism within the emperors of Rome was brought down through stabbing (sort of was in the case of Julius Caesar), it brings to the table a Hollywood styling that kindles an interest in the history of Rome once more.

Crowe provides a superb leading performance, riding on a career high before and after Gladiator released, this role places us right in the middle of the golden years of his work. It shows rather well, a confident performance that netted him an Academy Award for Best Actor, and rightly so. Equally as confident and entertaining is that of Joaquin Phoenix, whose smarmy, smug performance as Commodus makes for a truly inspired role that makes me want to punch the shit-eating grin right off of his lovely talented face. Only the best of actors can inspire hatred like that, and Phoenix produces a slimy, tantalising presentation of a Roman emperor.

Gladiator is eye candy for history enthusiasts, and for those interested in Roman history then I’m sure you’ll be more on hand to pick apart the various inaccuracies throughout the film. For me though, I wanted some decent action and strong performances from a rightly hailed film, and that’s exactly what I received. You can’t complain about competence, and Gladiator is an extremely competent movie.

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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