In the Battle of Thermopylae of 480 BC an alliance of Greek city-states fought the invading Persian army in the mountain pass of Thermopylae. Vastly outnumbered, the Greeks held back the enemy in one of the most famous last stands of history. Persian King Xerxes led a Army of well over 100,000 (Persian king Xerxes before war has about 170,000 army) men to Greece and was confronted by 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians, and 400 Thebans. Xerxes waited for 10 days for King Leonidas to surrender or withdraw but left with no options he pushed forward. After 3 days of battle all the Greeks were killed. The Spartan defeat was not the one expected, as a local shepherd, named Ephialtes, defected to the Persians and informed Xerxes that the separate path through Thermopylae, which the Persians could use to outflank the Greeks, was not as heavily guarded as they thought.Written by
Visceral, violent and visually stunning to the point where the lack of much else doesn't really matter
In the year 480 BC, King Xerxes of Persia set in motion his enormous slave empire to crush the small group of independent Greek states the only stronghold of freedom still remaining in the then known world. As the countless armies of Xerxes approaches, King Leonidas petitions the ruling council to meet the army with whatever men can be found. With the council unwilling to release soldiers until after the religious festival, Leonidas sets out with his 300 strong personal army to meet Xerxes' men at a narrow pass knowing they must hold off the approach for as long as they can until the army arrives even if it means their deaths.
Although I am surprised to see this film so highly rated on IMDb, I can understand why it is so because it does deliver a powerful experience, almost powerful enough to carry it through its lack of real depth or substance. You can see the selling point on the DVD cover or the poster because it is in these places where any film visually has to sell itself. With 300 though this selling continues across the entire film because, holding close to the graphic novel roots, the visual design is the all here. The plot is simple and, although there is a little bit of politicing back home, the film is all about the stand of the 300 against countless others. In this regard it is visceral, violent and visually stunning. The mix of effects with live action brings the action to live and is as suitably overblown as the legend.
Snyder's direction matches the effects and he wallows in every macho swing of the sword, doing really well to capture the action in a way that is engaging and clear. The lack of substance was a bit of a problem but to be honest the film does sweep you along in the moment of the battle and mostly this is all you care about. The cast don't really have characters so much as presence and mostly they deliver in this area. Butler is strong in the lead and he convinces in the role of Leonidas. Headley and West have the harder job back home to provide some interest in the politics behind the battle they do well enough (particularly The Wire's West, but I'm biased) but the script does rather leave them to their own devices. The rest of the cast are appropriately muscular and heroic and fit in with what the script is trying to do.
Overall this is an effective but superficial film. The design and the look is the all but fortunately it delivers in this regard really well. The performances, the script and everything else falls into line in supporting the graphic novel feel of the film and, although I would like to say I favour substance over style, it is hard not to like when the style is this well done.
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