by Zack Snyder (Director)
Review by Charles Mohapel
Theatrical ISBN/ITEM#: B00005JPLU
Date: 29 March 2007 / Show Official Info /
300 is inspired by the timeless tales of the Battle of Thermopylae, the heroic stand of King Leonidas and 300 Spartans against the Persian hordes of the tyrant Xerxes, believed in some circles to have numbered between 800,000 and 1 million. While the vision of Frank Miller as directed by Zack Snyder takes great liberties with the trimmings, this does not in the least bit detract from the incredible true story that it is based upon.
Actors: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan
The movie begins with the story of a young Leonidas facing death from a giant wolf. Subsequently we see King Leonidas training his son while an arrogant envoy of the self-proclaimed God-King Xerxes awaits his arrival. He presents what he no doubt perceives as a magnanimous offer, namely submission to Xerxes in exchange for keeping his title and being named Warlord of all Greece. The envoy soon learns that insulting Queen Gorgo and demanding that the Spartans submit are two acts guaranteed to exact the ultimate price, one that he and his armed escort soon discover.
Forbidden to go to war by the ruling council of Sparta who were manipulated by the perfidious councillor Theron, King Leonidas goes for a walk in the country, escorted by his personal bodyguard of 300 of Sparta's finest warriors. They march across country to Thermopylae which loosely translates to "hot gateway", so named because of the hot sulphurous gases escaping from the ground in the vicinity of the narrow coastal passage chosen by Leonidas as the best place to make a stand against overwhelmingly superior numbers. Here the Spartans build a wall composed of large stones and the bodies of Persian scouts sent ahead of the main force.
The Spartans and some allied Greeks hold fast against a war rhino, war elephants, sorcerers, and even the "Immortals". Famed Greek historian Herodotus referred to this Persian elite corps as the Ten Thousand or the Athanatoi, so named because when one man became sick or was killed, another elite warrior took his place, keeping their numbers always at 10 thousand. Leonidas and his Spartans certainly did their best to create lots of job openings among the "Immortals".
Telling you that King Leonidas and the brave Spartans held for 3 days before being betrayed and killed to the last man doesn't ruin the end of the movie any more than watching Titanic and knowing full well that the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and sunk on April 14, 1912 doesn't ruin that movie.
Choosing Glasgow-born Gerard Butler as King Leonidas and Bermuda-born English actress Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo was inspired casting in my opinion. Gerard Butler is not unfamiliar with working in period pieces, having been the Phantom in 2004's The Phantom of the Opera and as Beowulf in 2005's Beowulf & Grendel, partly filmed in Canada. Lena Headey is certainly Butler's equal as Queen Gorgo and is herself used to working in period pieces such as 2005's The Brothers Grimm as Angelika.
Just before the Montreal premiere, I discovered to my great delight that the movie had been shot in front of bluescreens and greenscreens at La Cite du Cinema. Later on I saw a short feature on Space: The Imagination Station (Canada's equivalent of the Sci-Fi Channel) where they spoke with the president of Hybride, the small Special Effects house that created 540 visual effects on "300", totalling 45 minutes. Based in St-Sauveur, a ski resort in the Laurentians north of Montreal, Hybride prefers to focus on quality rather than cutting prices to be competitive. In my opinion the stunning work I saw on the screen definitely validates this decision.
I have seen this movie twice in a week and it left me deeply moved both times. Now I can hardly wait for the deluxe version of the DVD to come out.