Flavius Silva, commander in Roman Judea, wants to reach a reasonable compromise with the Jewish Zealots and withdraw his legion. Events and personalities in Rome, however, lead to his besieging the fortress of Masada. There the engineering genius of the Romans must fight both the harsh climate and landscape, and the passion and ingenuity of Eleazar Ben Yair and his people. Written by
Honor is due all around. First, credit must go to Joel Oliansky, who developed Gann's slender book into full-range drama with wit and wisdom. Boris Segal directs a huge cast so well, and so unobtrusively...You never wonder where you are, or which side you're listening to; there are so many characters that are memorable, even if they only have two lines...It's the best performance of Peter Strauss's career, and one of O'Toole's crown jewels. Jerry Goldsmith can furnish haunting melodies and epic marches. In short, nobody in this miniseries has fallen down on the job...
Except for ABC, who took more than a decade to get it out of the vault and onto videotape, and still hasn't gotten "Masada" put on DVD.
The strongest kind of drama is when you can sympathize with both sides; Silva has been saddled with irrational orders for a military conquest (sound familiar?) where none is possible - or even necessary. Eleazar knows only one thing for sure: "No man should be another man's slave." But Rome must prove a point. Rome cannot allow defiance to succeed; the Jewish zealots cannot submit to Roman enslavement. "You can take their victory from them." Mesmerizing...and well worth your time.
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