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Death smiles on us all...
...all a man can do is smile back.In a way that line sums up this movie.On the surface it comes across as a simple action thriller... and it is, in many ways. The dialog is stilted,the story unoriginal,the character's archetypes, the political commentary unsubtle and the ending predictable.But what transcends this film is the undercurrent themes of hope, despair and loneliness.
For example, the film's villain Commodus at first seems like your typical villain but Phoenix shows us a lonely,scared,love-starved boy capable of kindness and worthy of our empathy.In his scenes with his sister Lucilla the two actors lift it away from just being about incest to a study of a relationship of poignant dependency.
Lucilla half hates her brother -and deep down he knows this- but he overlooks this because he desperately needs her.
Lucilla too is a lost soul, revealed in a line to Maximus:''I have felt alone all my life,except with you.''
The film says one crucial thing about human nature-our capacity for enjoying the pain of others. We are watching people watching people die. And we enjoy the death and violence as much as the Romans did. But the film's ending offer's some-perhaps unattainable-hope and is, in a odd way an affirmation of life.
What Gladiator doe's best is bring to life a world now lost. If I ever go to the Colosseum in Rome, I will not now see the rows of empty seats but hope,terror,hatred,cruelty, small kindness,desperate courage,and even heroism..in short.. all Humanity.