Cinemaster Score: 8/10
Gladiator, conceptually is rather cliché. With its plot outline doing little to distinguish itself from the majority of revenge dramas. However, the execution of said plot is what really makes Gladiator shine. Maximus’ (Russell Crowe) journey to end emperor Commodus’ rule is one filled with some of the most iconic action scenes in film history. As well as some of the most quotable dialogue in any film we’ve seen. Ridlet Scott’s excellent direction of these Hollywood stars leads them into career-defining performances and well-developed characters. He also manages to introduce enough impactful twists that keep the audience guessing at every turn, making for an entertaining watch. To top it all off, there are a multitude of actors in Gladiator that manage to impress us at every turn – but the two biggest performances are that of Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. Not only do they display a chemistry that is rare in today’s cinema, but they also show a willingness to go to the darkest of places with their characters for our enjoyment. In our opinion, they thoroughly succeed in their goal. Gladiator serves as an excellent vehicle for stellar performances and a plethora of jaw-dropping moments.
Acting; Russell Crowe has had a rather distinguished career – working on projects ranging from superhero movies to crime dramas. Although, his career-defining performance as Maximus in Gladiator is perhaps his very best. He not only manages to portray a man out for revenge, but also a loving father with a tender heart. Whenever Crowe is on screen, his presence commands our attention. The same can be be said for Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the detestable Commodus. Phoenix is stellar in pretty much anything he does, and here he is no different. He plays one of the most easy to hate characters we’ve ever seen, with his menacing and sly demeanor. These two are the main attractions of the film, as they effortlessly pull us in with their chemistry and believable hatred towards each other on screen. They combine for an absolute powerhouse of a performance – making the film their own, and an even better experience as a whole.
Script; There are many memorable lines and moments throughout Gladiator, thanks most notably to the strong script providing them. Maximus, (Russell Crowe) as a protagonist is tragic and relatable in his loss, but also compelling in his mission for revenge. His character is given some of the best lines in the film – including the iconic “Are you not entertained?”. Accompanying him are a cast of supporting characters that are written with strong convictions and conflicting opinions. Each are unique, well-rounded, and do well to carry the film. Commodus, (Joaquin Phoenix) is also a well-crafted character, as he is given twisted dialogue that matches his dark personality. Perhaps what is most interesting about the script is its use of morally grey choices that are neither too cliché nor over the top. Nothing is ever purely black or white, but a series of developed actions that reflect the characters displayed. Everyone is written great and thought out, showing just how strong the script is in this film.
Characters; There are a handful of characters in Gladiator. Nonetheless, the only ones who truly are important are the protagonist and antagonist. Our protagonist is the titular gladiator – Maximus. Maximus is a tragic hero who the audience can’t help but sympathize with. He is filled with a fiery vengeance that drives the movie. Sure, the character doesn’t have an extremely original character arc – but he is brought to life so well from the script and portrayal by Russell Crowe. In opposition to Maximus is the emperor, Commodus. He is a devious, cocky, and calculated ruler. Commodus does what he needs to in order to gain and maintain control over his people. The only control he lacks is the loyalty of Maximus – hence forcing him into gladiatorial battles. These two face off in constant stalemate – an unstoppable force taking on an unmovable object. They’re entertaining in this dynamic and make Gladiator all the more fascinating.
Direction; Ridley Scott is a wildly talented director with a lengthy résumé of films in his collection. From the sci-fi/thriller phenomena that are Alien and Blade Runner to the good at best Hannibal (2001) – Ridley Scott has done it all. When it comes to his action films, though, Gladiator may very well be his best. He uses his experience from past films and their added dramas to make a much deeper tale. He puts Russell Crowe’s talents to their best potential in a performance he wouldn’t match for years. It isn’t surprising how good Gladiator is directed in retrospect of Scott’s iconic stature. He brings every element of the film together seamlessly. The underlying themes in his plot are balanced out with the self-conscious appeal of viewers’ barbaric love for violence. Gladiator is a unique film from Ridley Scott and it stands out amongst the rest.
Story; At first glance, Gladiator may seem like a skin deep film fueled purely by intense action with supplementing gore. Yet, that is only a skin deep analysis of this flick. Gladiator is, really, a classic take of one man seeking revenge on another. Specifically, the new emperor (Commodus) has the protagonist’s (Maximus) family killed. The rest of the film sees Maximus being forced into fighting as a gladiator for not pledging his loyalty to Commodus. This spawns some iconic action sequences as Maximus seeks revenge against the emperor. The story has plenty of important battles for Maximus. But, the more interesting pieces of Gladiator’s story are the politics involved. Commodus struggles to keep his empire convinced of his absolute power as the gladiator gains ground. It’s an emotional tale that keeps you watching until the satisfying finale.
Enjoyment; While not purely enjoyable in the sense of constant action and adrenaline pumping moments, Gladiator is thrilling in a different kind of way. The fight scenes are put together with skill and energy. The characters on screen are played with enough gravitas and magnetism to entertain any moviegoer. The overall viewing experience is pleasant as a whole thanks to the excellent direction and cinematography. There are some slow moments, but they are interrupted by numerous scenes of action and intriguing dialogue. The film isn’t consistently entertaining, but it is nonetheless a compelling tale full of beautiful moments and tragic twists. Altogether, these moments add up to make for an interesting watch that is sure to entertain.
David: “Gladiator is truly a pleasing watch. The movie contains every lovable aspect you could ask for within an action flick. The ending was perfectly fitting, too. I haven’t found many films that can put such a tried and true formula to work without boring me. As well as having balanced gore and politics throughout. Gladiator is overlooked often, but is quite iconic in its own right.”
JP: “Upon rewatching Gladiator recently, I found a new respect for the film that I never had. A respect for the strong performances on display and excellent filmmaking accompanying it. I myself know that this revenge concept has been done to death, but I also can’t help but enjoy this film more and more each time I see it. I doubt you’ll find too much wrong with Gladiator yourself, as this film really does have it all.”