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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday, April 20, 2014 - Edition No 893 

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GLADIATOR

SYNOPSIS:
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) is old and frail, close to death. His son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) is a disappointment to him and not a worthy successor, although his ambition is endless. Marcus asks his victorious General Maximus (Russell Crowe) to take over the reins as Protector of Rome and return power to the people, but before this wish can become reality, Commodus senses something amiss and intervenes, triggering a chain of events that changes the future of the Roman Empire. Maximus has to survive Commodus' jealous fury, the assassination of his own family and the ignominy of being a slave. But it is as a slave-gladiator that Maximus finds the way to serve Rome once again, and help deliver on his promise to the late Emperor Marcus.

"Epic cinema is back - and two Australians make enormous contributions to its welcome return: Russell Crowe is a glorious gladiator, a combination of brains and brawn, complete with a noble soul, that can stand proudly alongside the likes of Kirk Douglas in Spartacus or Charlton Heston in Ben Hur. His Maximus is a genuinely heroic character, something that is essential for the film to succeed at the top of our expectations. The other Australian is musician (working with Hans Zimmer) Lisa Gerrard (who also worked on Crowe's previous film, The Insider), whose inventive ideas and bravura vocals adorn this score as well as they do The Insider's. But they are not alone: Ridley Scott's splendid direction makes the most of a rousing script and a raft of technological tools that (entirely hidden) work miracles in recreating ancient Rome, from the Colosseum to the caves beneath it. But his tightest focus is on the characters and the emotional ebb and flow of a story that, while not the most original in the world, captures the importance of individuals' actions, explores character and sets it in the larger socio-political setting so it has real context for us. The film succeeds in puffing life into its characters and in taking us onto the battlefields, into the bloody arena and most importantly, into the hearts and minds of its protagonists. Much of the latter is thanks to the impeccably chosen cast of (largely) English actors, while the former relies on the crafts people in stunts, production design and CGI applications. But the single most crucial element in Gladiator's favour is its script, which is driven by the belief that positive human values are worth living and dying for. It's also a thrilling, engrossing entertainment."
Andrew L. Urban

"Bringing back the excitement and spectacle of the epic in glorious style, Gladiator is a magical movie event that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Just as epics like Ben Hur and Spartacus brought us the moving story of an individual on a platform of hundreds and thousands, Ridley Scott has injected flair supreme, achieving a superb balance of action and emotion. Reliving all the pomp and ceremony of ancient Rome, we are dazzled by extraordinary battles and fight scenes, admire stunning vistas in England, Malta, Italy and Morroco and are moved by the human story at its core. But times have somewhat changed, and 33,000 of the spectators in the Colosseum's arena are now computer generated and seamlessly blended into the mix. But there were no short cuts for the extensive training of the actors, stuntmen and thousands of extras whose required training for the sword fights was extensive. Russell Crowe his rich, deep voice never more appealing is magnificent as the man who has to win his freedom more than once. Crowe excels at both the physicality of the role and the subtlety of characterisation, exposing the simple goodness of a virtuous man. The casting is faultless with Joachim Phoenix compelling as the ambitious Commodus, whose resentment and jealousy is almost visible. The production design is lush, costumes detailed, the cinematography riveting. But it is Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard's score that captures our spirits and with their magnificent music, stirring our emotions. Escapism and gripping entertainment all at once, Gladiator is a film about strength, honour and courage. An inspirational film to admire and enjoy."
Louise Keller

"Forty years after Ben-Hur and Spartacus and twenty years after Caligula, it's taken the awesome skill of director Ridley Scott to bring the Roman spectacle to life again - and how. The two and a half hour running time has it all - a fabulous history lesson, thousands of extras, massive battle scenes and best of all, a literate, well crafted screenplay. Watching how cleverly Scott makes us love Maximus from the first frame is the first sign we're in for something special. He looks at a bird, watches it fly away and smiles. A simple, beautiful character sketch before the bloodletting begins. There's so much to praise in this bold, eye-popping spectacle which made me think we were back in Anthony Mann-land for a moment. Russell Crowe handling weaponry and emotional duties with equal skill, Joaquin Phoenix born to the role of the snivelling hissable villain of the piece and Richard Harris clocking in a best supporting actor worthy appearance as the dying emperor. It's also a wonderful cinematic swan song for Oliver Reed who musters all the talent he had previously wasted and throws it superbly into the role of gladiator entrepreneur Proximus. I loved this film which demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible and is a full blooded spectacular worthy of the title."
Richard Kuipers



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Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

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TRAILER

GLADIATOR (M15+)
(US)

CAST: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou, Richard Harris, David Schofield, John Shrapnel

PRODUCERS: Douglas Wick, Branco Lustig, David Franzoni

DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott

SCRIPT: John Logan, William Nicholson, David Franzoni

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Mathieson

EDITOR: Pietro Scalia

MUSIC: Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Arthur Max

RUNNING TIME: 152 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 4, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures Video

VIDEO RELEASE: December 6, 2000







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