300

Directed by Zack Snyder. USA. 2007.


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This is a film adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name.  Like Sin City, it is faithful to the source material and is shot on greenscreen's in a studio environment.  Whereas the Rodriguez interpretation was restricted by the black and white photography hence giving it a hyper-reality, artificial feel; Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) is able to show the true capability of the technology and give us amazing landscapes and locations he could have but dreamed to film at.  Whilst it is but a mythic tale, you are lead to believe it may be true. 

The story is an underdog story back in Ancient Greek days, when 300 Spartan soldiers fought off against the thousands of Persian troops that wanted to engulf its land and conquer the beginnings of Eastern Europe.  The 300's strength in holding for so long gave Europe a chance to fight back the next time.   

There are stirring performances from a largely British and European cast, though it did take a while to get used to the Scottish tone of Gerard Butler's king, much like Sean Connery in years gone by; while David Wenham's voiceover whilst necessary and stirring in the rallying cries are overblown. 

The action scenes are well shot and choreographed but too often they fall into the Peckinpah region of slow-motion (do you remember a slow-mo in Gladiator?).  Other negatives are a requirement of a sex scene before the King leaves for battle and the temptation of the traitor scene goes on for too long.  As an audience we are too intelligent and well aware that Ephilates (Andrew Tiernan), the hunchback will switch sides to Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). 

But lets remain positive, the actors speak their lines and play their roles with great vigour and enjoyment which is good to see.  And with greenscreen's half the battle is making us believe that what they are seeing is real.  

While indebted to Gladiator (a fallen hero, the sweeping score and a cornfield finale) it ticks the necessary boxes of a swords and sandals film, focusing on action and the legacy of their actions.  It might be too long of a film but certainly a visual feast. 

If you want a political reading in terms of today's current climate, the King Leonidas ( Butler) is President Bush who in order to defend his homestead from a foreign power goes to war against the wishes of his higher council (US Senate), which makes the whole war illegal.  On route to battle he encounters an ally, Daxon (Andrew Pleavin) and his soldiers who are a clan of weavers and blacksmiths - a rag-tag of a group compared to the professional soldiers, Daxon is Tony Blair; sceptical but willing to help a friend.  After losses to his men Daxon decides to leave for the good of his men, while Leonidas continues the fight to the end. 

While entertaining is 300 also prescient? 

Note: I watched 300 in a preview screening at the BFI IMAX cinema at the Waterloo, Southbank.  While it will also be released on 35mm nationwide, if you want to savour the momentous feel of the picture then I suggest you go to either Waterloo or the Odeon IMAX in Manchester.  Ticket prices and information can be found at www.bfi.org.uk/imax
 

Jamie Garwood
 
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