Okay, there are only two words to describe this movie: fucking awesome.
Yeah, that’s right. I’ve fallen straight into that camp. But I’m not ashamed – 300 is without a doubt the most entertaining and the most original action movie I’ve seen in a long time. The story is quite simple – when the Persian armies of Xerxes I march into Greece, Spartan law prevents King Leonidas from taking his army to challenge them. In a show of defiance, he takes three-hundred of his best soldiers (under the guise of his personal bodyguard) to Thermopylae (translation: the hot gates) to hold off the hoardes without breaking the law of his people.
Three hundred against a million. At least, that’s how Herodotus the Greek historian remembered it – modern historians say it was more like a hundred thousand. But this is a story narrated by a Spartan, and so of course he’s well within his rights to… embellish the truth, shall we say. And embellished it is – the traitor Ephialtes is here remembered as a hideously deformed freak; the antagonist ‘God King’ Xerxes depicted as both androgynous and intimidating, standing at a good seven feet tall with a powerfully seductive voice. And of course, as a result of this hyperbole, a good number of people have complained about the movie – unrealistic, unfaithful to the truth.
Correct. But, so what? As I said this is a story narrated by a Spartan, and whilst it’s a fictional representation, it is true that history is always recorded by the victors. Thus it stands to reason that the Persians are here depicted as horrible monsters whilst the Greeks are depicted as heroic men, and Leonidas represents honour and bravery in comparison to Xerxes’ cowardice. It’s the same thing as us today remembering the Holocaust as a heinous crime, whereas had the Nazis won the war it would probably be remembered as a necessary, if distasteful, act which ultimately benefitted the world. In short: anyone who watches 300 and thinks it is racist or historically inaccurate – the response is that if it is, it’s not the opinion of anyone other than the characters in the movie. And, really – shut up and enjoy the fucking film.
Because there’s a lot to enjoy here. The visuals are something else; if we all didn’t already know that the film was a shot-for-shot adaptation of a comic book then we’d say it looked like a comic book. The music is also suitably stirring, fusing the Hans Zimmeresque orchestral score we’ve come to expect with the heavier sound of electric guitars. Cast-wise, also superb – Gerard Butler as Leonidas excels in every regard, and Rodrigo Santoro’s Xerxes is just fabulous in a way I can’t describe. Simply; he’s exactly how you might imagine an ancient emporer who wants to rule the world – he believes he’s a God. And the battle scenes…
This is what we’ve been waiting for. When people get slashed with a sword in this movie, we not only see the gash, the breaking limb, the shattered neck, the splaying blood, but we hear it all. It’s as gory as you’d expect, but perversely, compared to gory horror films (I’m talking about you Hostel) it doesn’t come across as disgusting in any way. It just feels right.
At its core, this is a movie for blokes I think. The themes – death is the ultimate glory; strength and honour are what make a man – appeal to us all on a deep level. The ending, without spoiling it (and I mean the actual end of the movie), is one of the most stirring battle scenes I can ever remember seeing. A lot of it is like that – you kind of think to yourself, ‘yes, I would like to serve under Leonidas.’
It’s not perfect – for example, the scenes with Mrs. Leonidas are a bit of a drag, but I guess they’re necessary to punctuate the action of the battle scenes – but really, you’d be hard pressed to find a more entertaining film this spring. 300 is the best action film released in the last couple of years, and what’s more it does it with class and originality. Go and see it now.