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Ridley Scott thrusts us so close to the combat that all we see is a lot of whirling and thrashing, a sword thrust here and there, a spurt of blood, a limb severed. There's hardly a scene that is cleanly and coherently staged in open space.
Gladiator is filled with brilliant filmmaking and features outstanding performances, but it's neither profound enough nor pop enough to be great -- it's mournful, serious, beautiful and, finally, pointless.
This may be fundamentally Saturday night entertainment, but Scott attempts rather more than that on occasion, and at least succeeds in creating a memorable sense of a dark and often frightening period of time.
February 24, 2015
The fusion of the ancient and the modern -- even to the point of some sly echoes of our own sports-mad society -- is seamless. Gladiator does indeed deliver the glory that was Rome, but it also clinically dissects the assumptions on which it was built.
The journey of Maximus, from triumph on the battlefield through despair and degradation in slavery and then to a final epiphany in the Colosseum is an exciting one - and Russell Crowe plays the character with considerable toughness and authority.
Gladiator is a triumph. On the surface, it's a terrific yarn with strong, rounded characters, agonizing suspense and visceral thrills. Look closer and you'll find rich historical themes, and a harrowing critique of violence as amusement.