In the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler),with his trusted lieutenant Dilios (David Wenham) and 300 Spartans, fought to the death against Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his massive Persian army. But the Spartan Senate was not behind Leonidas; his wife Queen Gorgo (Lena Heady) tried to summon support, even humiliating herself with the treacherous Senator Theron (Dominic West) but to no avail. It was up to the battle-hardened 300, facing insurmountable odds, to sacrifice themselves and to inspire all of Greece to unite against their Persian enemy.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I can't help thinking that director Zack Snyder should have followed Mel Gibson's lead and made 300 in Greek. Not only would this have furthered the cause of subtitled movies in general, but it would have avoided the endlessly distracting sounds of Gerard Butler's Scottish brogue clanging against Dominic West's English or David Wenham's slightly unnatural neutral accents. And that's not counting Lena Heady's urbane sound or the faux Persian lilt of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his messengers.
The clash of tongues aside, 300 is certainly ferocious in cinematic style but that matches its subject matter; the dialogue has the turbo-charged power of graphic novel utterances that are usually constrained only by the speech balloon and transformed into internal sounds by the reader. Like the tag line, "Prepare for glory!" some of the lines are hard to say without sounding like a character from a graphic novel. This makes all the performances heavy on declamatory tactics, but then this is a brutal time and bloody conflict, not tea at Buckingham Palace.
The thing about 300 is its visual style, after all, and this is where the film's real stars shine, the digital troops, led in this case by Australia's Grant Freckelton (visual effects art director) at Animal Logic. Spectacular, vibrant and unique, the film relies on this work for its tone and its graphic impact. Stabs of colour rape the otherwise bleached and burnt images, blood spills like two dimensional illustration out of bodies rendered into life even as they die by the hundred and thousand.
There is no doubt that a legion of fans will lap up the film's epic, violent and tragic sensibilities, but this occasionally derivative work (it owes a debt, for example, to Gladiator for a number of elements including the use of wordless vocals, wheatfields and framing) stumbles on weaknesses that could have been avoided. Apart from the odd accents, some of the head-dressing looks silly, especially on Xerxes (Santoro is miscast, to boot) as if mocking this self-appointed God. If that's intentional, it's a mistake; it diminishes the terror his army should invoke in our hearts.
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GRANT FRECKLETON INTERVIEW
VOICES: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender, Tom Wisdom
PRODUCER: Mark Canton, Bernie Goldmann, Gianni Nunnari, Jeffrey Silver
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
SCRIPT: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad (Graphic novel by Frank Miller & Lynn Varley)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Larry Fong
EDITOR: William Hoy
MUSIC: Tyler Bates
PRODUCTION DESIGN: James D. Bissell
OTHER: Grant Freckelton (visual effects art director)
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 5, 2007