Film, Action and adventure
4 out of 5 stars
Gladiator, 100 best action movies, Russell Crowe
Photograph: Universal Pictures

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

The late second century: the Roman army is fighting Germania, but that's a small problem for general Maximus (Crowe), compared to his relations with the Imperial dynasty. Ailing Marcus Aurelius (Harris) would like his favourite soldier and confidant to take over and pass power to the Senate. His heir, however - the insecure Commodus (Phoenix) - feels miffed by the slight. Having ensured dad dies in his arms, the new Emperor exerts his murderous authority. But Maximus won't swear loyalty, and after a narrow escape, the enslaved ex-general, bent on vengeance, gets a chance to return to Rome as a gladiator. Scott's sword and sandal spectacular is a bloody good yarn, packed with epic pomp and pageantry, dastardly plots, massed action and forthright, fundamental emotions. That said, for all the efforts to suggest authenticity, it stays true to peplum tradition, not only in its age old clichés, but in saying as much about our era as that in which it's set. The implausibly efficient carnage of the opening battle evokes post-'Nam war movies; Maximus' improbably swift, deep bonding with an African slave lends a whiff of PC historicity; Commodus's vices arise from poor parental care. Still, the cast is strong (notably Nielsen as Commodus's vacillating sister, and the late Oliver Reed, unusually endearing as a gladiator owner), the pacing lively, and the sets, swordplay and Scud catapults impressive.

By: GA


Release details

155 mins

Cast and crew

Ridley Scott
John Logan, David Franzoni, William Nicholson
Derek Jacobi
David Hemmings
Joaquin Phoenix
Richard Harris
Ralf Moeller
Oliver Reed
Russell Crowe
Spencer Treat Clark
Djimon Hounsou
Connie Nielsen
David Schofield
John Shrapnel
Tomas Arana
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