– Summary –
Director : Zack Snyder
Cast : Gerard Butler, David Wenham, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, Tom Wisdom, Andrew Pleavin, Andrew Tiernan, Rodrigo Santoro, Stephen McHattie, Michael Fassbender, Peter Mensah.
Year of Release : 2007
Length : 117 Minutes
Synopsis: When the advancing armies of Persia threaten to wipe out their race, King Leonidas takes 300 of his best men to stand firm against an army of 120,000. Graphic violence and blood ensues.
Review : Stunningly told, filled to the brim with graphic and engaging imagery, 300 is a tour-de-force of film-making prowess that is, above all, a man’s film in the truest sense of the word. Cinematic dynamite. Grab hold of something and hang on tight.
A few years ago, a little zombie horror film was released onto the film scene that caused quite a stir. That film was Dawn of The Dead, lensed by Zack Snyder, who had previously directed numerous commercials and music videos. Dawn of The Dead, a remake of the George Romero classic of the same name, was a frightening and low-key affair that did not attempt to remake the wheel, merely refine it a little. Such was Snyders success with DOTD, he was granted permission by Warner Bros to direct an almost entirely CGI enhanced feature based on Frank Millers graphic, graphic novel, 300.
With an enormous weight on his shoulders (given Millers adverse reactions to other films made from his work) and a truck load of studio money riding on the outcome, making 300 was always going to be a make or break moment for the young director. When it was released 2007 to a mixed reaction, there was some concern that the gamble had not paid off. These concerns proved unfounded, as the film raked in the cash, leaving studio bosses very, very happy.
Yes, the film is financially successful. Yes, it’s perhaps the greatest example of a “man’s film” ever made (behind a John Wayne movie), but is it really worth the effort?
300, for those who have still to catch up, is a film shot primarily on green screen stages (a la The Phantom Menace, Revenge Of The Jedi and seemingly, the latest Indiana Jones film) and enhanced with CGI backdrops and gratuitous uses of digital tomfoolery to put you in the greatest battle Sparta has ever seen. This, coupled with the roaring soundtrack and testosterone laden action sequences make 300 a cinematic delight for those who like that kind of stuff. I once read a review somewhere (I forget now where) that this is the best example of film “dudity” ever made; that is, the amount of male nudity on screen in overwhelming. But for all the rampant heterosexual men out there thinking that’s not a good thing in a man’s movie, you couldn’t be more wrong. The sheer volume of buffed and bronzed skin on screen is almost overkill, yet in keeping with the style of the film (strangely enough, also in keeping with the original source material!) it never seems to matter.
To say 300 is violent is to say Saving Private Ryan features a little bit of war. 300 is a gory, graphic and brutal assault on the senses, yet at all times it comes across as the cinematic equivalent of a brochure explaining how great it is to spill your own blood for a worthy cause. Digital blood screams across the screen almost constantly, muscles on the actors flexing and contorting into various poses once only the domain of Fabio, and the dialogue is as sanguine as a sandpaper nappy. To be honest, 300 is far from being a subtle film, so don’t expect to cuddle up to the missus and get some loving later on after watching this film.
Snyder certainly knows how to fill a screen with dazzling imagery, or make the most subtle angle work in favor of the story. Problematically with 300, the story is paper thin anyway, and the cleverest angles and camera work will only go so far. And I guess, if anything, this is 300‘s only major flaw: the story. Our characters are so gung-ho, so battle ready that they lose any sense of connection with our own word. This mythological zenith of human evolution espoused by the film almost all the way through is a kind of invisible wall to allowing us, the viewer, any sense of camaraderie with the heroes. King Leonidas, played with utter ferocity by Gerard Butler, is a snarling, growling hulk of a man, heroic and patriotic to a fault, but without a redeeming feature you’d find in your average man on the street these days. The villains, a collection of the most grotesque and inappropriately bejeweled behemoths ever seen on screen, are a visual treat; they represent a collection of seconded armies from around the globe with alternative fighting styles; how they stack up to the Spartans (our heroes) is perhaps the real key to the story.
But in the end, the story is second to the whizzbangery of the visual effects and digital prowess of the guys sitting at a computer back at the office. No script in the world is going to make up for a film that is, essentially, a war picture, with all the focus on just how cool we can make war look. In this regard, 300 scores big time.
If you’re looking for a terrific example of how to make a film just for sheer entertainment value, then you’d be hard pressed to go past this effort. Surely one of the best films to come out of 2007 talent pool, expect big things from Snyder when his next film, the highly anticipated Watchmen, is released next year. 300 scores massive watchability points with me, with a serviceable (but lumbered) script and some of the most razor sharp visuals ever committed to film. Pure cinematic dynamite.