Dir: Zack Snyder
Star: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West

Trash City
Top 10:2007
Seems every culture has a heroic myth of a small force facing overwhelming odds. Off-hand, I know the following: Rorke's Drift, The Alamo, Masada, the Battle of Camaron (French Foreign Legion), the Battle of Wizna (Poles vs. Nazis) and so on. With regard to 300, the nearest equivalent would be epic poem Y Gododdin, in which about the same number of British warriors made a suicidal attack on the Angle forces around the year 600. [The poem was turned into an album by Test Dept. in 1989] There is thus something instinctual about the appeal here, and while one can bicker about the historical accuracy, or the depiction of the (cough) 'Persians', as a cinematic spectacle, it's difficult to criticize, and its sheer simplicity is effective. A small force of Spartans, led by King Leonidas (Butler) go to face the million-man Persian army, choosing to make their stand in a narrow pass where the numerical advantage is neutralized. That's basically it.

Butler is a commanding choice in the lead, even if his Scots accent is occasionally distracting. Most of the rest of the cast are okay: Headey, as Queen Gorgo, does particularly well with a small role. All the actors are, however, subservient to battle scenes which are chaotic, stylized affairs with buckets of digital blood arcing through the air with each thrust. The look is similar to Sin City, with backgrounds almost entirely artificial, adding a surreal air to proceedings, in sync with its origins (again, like Sin City) as a Frank Miller graphic novel. In a couple of well-muscled, chest-waxed, brief-wearing moments, we wondered if David DeCoteau was working as second-unit director. Otherwise, though, this is spectacular movie-making, that grabs you viscerally and doesn't let go.

[April 2007]

Arms and the (few) men
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