Favourites on Friday - 'Gladiator'

Apart from Gordon’s driving lesson, we didn’t have anything else on today, and as it was raining (oh! what a surprise!), we watched a movie this afternoon – one I’ve watched before many times but not recently, one the boys haven’t watched at all – ‘Gladiator’.

 I know I liked the film, but I’d forgotten just how much.  It was the first time I’d seen Russell Crowe, and I was impressed; personally I think he does ‘action man’ best – have enjoyed watching him in ‘Master and Commander’ and ‘Robin Hood’ … oh, and the latest ‘Superman’.  Actually having said that, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by his abilities in ‘Les Miserables’. 

But I digress … back to the film.  It’s an action film, yes, but it’s also a good ‘character’ film.  Crowe’s character, Maximus, grows and changes according to the different conditions he’s subjected to.  His acting is ‘quiet’ and full of subtle nuances; his expressions showing a range of conflicting emotions without the need for additional dialogue.

Joaquin Phoenix as Emperor Commodus does a brilliant job creating an antagonist that is equally malevolent and pitiful.  His relationship with his sister, Lucilla, played by Connie Nielsen, borders on incestuous but he never quite crosses the line.  You want to hate him, but can’t help feeling sorry for the ‘little boy’ who continues to yearn for his father’s seemingly non-existent love.

 I so felt for Lucilla; so scared of her own brother but unable to do anything about it for she had to protect her seven-year-old son, who was heir to the throne.  She had to tread so carefully around Commodus, had to make sure she didn’t anger or alienate him, couldn’t openly rebuff his advances … all to protect her son.

I enjoyed watching great actors doing what they do best – Richard Harris, Oliver Reed, Derek Jacobi – such effortless acting.  And I particularly enjoyed Djimon Hounsou’s performance as Maximus’ friend, Juba; he seemed to ground Maximus and remind him that it was ok to go on living.

The action scenes were quite intense.  I found it interesting that each battle was different, whether it was the Roman army against the Germanic barbarians; the gladiator fights, one on one, or in a group.  And it showed battle to be chaotic, hard-hitting, bloody.

Visually, it is a stunning film – from the brutal and muddy battlefield, to the dusty slave-route, to the breath-taking city of Rome … so much detail packed into every scene.  The costumes all looked very authentic; Lucilla’s robes were to die-for, even the senators’ robes looked sumptuous.

And the music … it’s one of my favourite CDs.  I remember, after watching the film in the cinema, I went straight to the music store and bought a copy of the CD.  Each piece truly enhances the scene it’s composed for without intruding, if that makes sense.

The film’s ending surprised me – I won’t say how it ended, in case anyone reading this hasn’t watched the film and is planning to – but it didn’t disappoint; I think it felt right for the film.

The boys enjoyed it, more so than they thought they would.  I really like watching films with them now – don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed our film-time – but now that they’re older, we usually end up having quite interesting discussions afterwards.