Moments prior to screening the film 300 a few days back, only one thing was going through my mind: Please don’t suck! After all of this hype, watching the trailer seemingly thousands of times, writing about the film constantly on various websites and even interviewing Director Zach Snyder, I would be truly disappointed if I were forced to set this one ablaze as I have countless films thus far in 2007. But I was comforted when I remembered the words of Zack Snyder, who said of his film, “I wanted to do a movie that when you walked out you were like ‘Fuck! That was awesome!’ And like, you wanna kick some ass.”
Upon seeing the film, I am in total agreement with its director, It was awesome! Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller (Sin City), 300 tells the story of 300 Spartans lead by their King, Leonidas (Gerard Butler) into the face of an insurmountable invasion at the hands of a million-man Persian army. Despite a lack of support from the Spartan council and a group of creepy elders who communicate with the Gods via a half naked teenage girl (in a scene that is alluring and tastefully done), Leonidas decides that rather than allow his nation to be conquered into slavery, he must take his best warriors, the Spartan elite, and do what he can to fend off the impending invasion.
From there the film explodes into a highly stylized, intense battle royale in which the Spartans, with their flare for battle and their constant arrogance, take on the vast Persian army led by the God-King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). The battle scenes themselves are something to behold, they are pulse pounding and intense yet not chaotic. Snyder has found a way to slow down the action enough to show us more without making it look over the top. The result is the most stylish and intensely violent action that you will see all year. It is a film so intense, it makes Gladiator look like a Disney flick. But then again, that is what you could have expected if you’ve seen the trailer at least once.
What you don’t expect is the intangibles that Snyder has gotten right in his film. There is more story here than previous Frank Miller book-to-movie adaptations such as Sin City. In addition to the bond between Leonidas and his 300, a sordid plot of political tension also rages back in Sparta between Leonidas’ wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) and the leader of the Spartan Council (Dominic West). In addition to that, Gerard Butler, who is a lesser known actor here in the states (besides his leading role in The Phantom of the Opera), gives a performance that should catapult him to the top of many people’s A-Lists. He does more than just shout to his men prior to an impending surge, he is charismatic, irreverent and ultimately embodies the vision of a Spartan warrior. I would not be surprised if you see much more of him in the future.
And Butler is not the only one who will benefit greatly from this epic film’s impending success. Director Zack Snyder, whose other notoriety came from his remake of Dawn of the Dead in 2004, has truly taken the action movie genre to a new level. Forget Gladiator, forget Troy and if you haven’t already, forget Alexander. None of these flicks can hold a flame to 300. And that is saying something.
If you are like me, and you hold a place in your movie-loving heart for films that just plain kick ass, then 300 is not to be missed. It is the single most intense cinematic experience I have had in a long time. It is as if the story and the visuals have been ripped directly from the mind of Frank Miller and transposed onto the silver screen without being spoiled by a Hollywood need to be realistic. Not since The Matrix has a film been so innovative that it may change the face of an entire genre, but this one may do just the trick. I hate to be clich©, but there is no other way to say it, no matter how you slice it, this is the film to see in 2007. Grab your Spartan helmet, sword and shield, it is time to kick some ass!
300 is in theaters nationwide March 9, has a running time of 117 minutes and is Rated R for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity.