The 101 Action Movies brings me Ridley Scott’s Best Picture winner Gladiator for me to re-watch and enjoy. Starring Russell Crowe as Maximus, a Roman general in service to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). When the emperor is murdered by his devious and power-hungry son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), Maximus is ordered to be executed along with his wife and son, but escapes.
He vows revenge on Commodus, but is taken as a slave, and trained as a gladiator by Proximo (Oliver Reed). Allying himself with a fellow slave, Juba (Djimon Hounsou), the two form a fast friendship and influence the rest of the slaves in their group, working together to survive in the Coliseum of Rome, as Maximus gets closer and closer to having his revenge on Commodus.
Interwoven with this story, is the politics of Rome, as Commodus attempts to solidify his power, distracting the mob with the breads and circuses of the Coliseum, while stripping away their freedoms. Members of the senate, however, are still struggling to maintain Aurelius’ vision of Rome as a republic. They see in Maximus, in his defiance of Commodus, a symbol, a leader, a fighter, who can help bring the corrupt emperor’s rule to an end.
Scott has always been an amazing technical director, and this film is no different, the man is a master of his craft, the pacing, the shot composition, the visual effects at work, all marrying perfectly to bring a time to life that we have never seen. Working from a script by David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson, Scott has made a powerful film that hits all the notes you would want with an action film, and just as importantly, gives us strong characters and arcs for them as well.
The film also features my favorite score by composer Hans Zimmer, anytime any of the soundtracks tunes come up on my iPod, they always get cranked, there is power in this score, just like in the film.
Crowe is captivating as Maximus, and is surrounded by top-notch actors like Derek Jacobi, Connie Nielsen and David Schofield. It’s a glorious spectacle, whether it blazes across the big screen or in the comfort of your own home.
It’s wonderfully stunning, gorgeously shot, and it was no wonder that it won the Best Picture Oscar, as well as grabbing a Best Actor for Crowe, Best Costume, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects.
There was a time I would watch this film on a regular basis, and it sort of slipped out of the rotation, now though, I want nothing more than to throw it back in and enjoy it over and over.
While Blade Runner will always be my favorite Ridley Scott film, this one is definitely in the top 3, the other being Alien of course! It’s undeniably my favorite Russell Crowe film.
The battle sequences, whether the opening one, in the forests of Germania, or in the gladiatorial arena, are bloody, brilliant, and visceral.
What is your favorite Ridley Scott film?