Maximus is a powerful Roman general, loved by the people and the aging Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Before his death, the Emperor chooses Maximus to be his heir over his own son, Commodus, and a power struggle leaves Maximus and his family condemned to death. The powerful general is unable to save his family, and his loss of will allows him to get captured and put into the Gladiator games until he dies. The only desire that fuels him now is the chance to rise to the top so that he will be able to look into the eyes of the man who will feel his revenge
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In a classic story of good versus evil, Gladiator plays on every human emotion. It ropes you in from the opening scene and keeps you enthralled to the final credits. Russell Crowe stars in this epic film as Maximus, the Roman General who is next in line to take over the Roman empire after the death of Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). Marcus's vision is to take power away from the Ceasars and return it to its rightful place, the people of Rome. He knows Maximus will fulfill his vision, and thus appoints him as heir. However, Marcus's deranged, power-driven son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) believes otherwise. He mangages to set an execution order on Maximus, his wife, and his young son. Somehow, Maximus, being the hero he is, manages to escape and travels back to Spain in attempt to save his wife and son. However, he proves to be too late and his wife and son are murdered under the order set by Commodus and his people. Maximus is taken into slavery and sentenced to the Gladiator games. At this point, Maximus makes it his life's mission to destroy Commodus, bring justice to his family's slaying, restore the power to the people, and fulfill Marcus Aurelius's vision.
Beyond great cinematography, the acting is superb as well. It is simple, not overdone, and the characters are very well defined, very distinct, and very complicated. Personally, I think the characters and dialogue is what makes great film. Special effects are nice, but characters are the core, and Gladiator is full of great characters, especially Maximus. Russell Crowe is brilliant, and casting could not have cast a better actor to fulfill the role, so Kudos to casting. Crowe brings a toughness to Maximus's character through his accent, through his demeanor, through his rugged appearance, and through his mannerisms. Truly Crowe's outward appearance is perfect for Maximus, but it is his brilliant acting that does the trick. He never overdoes anything, but his perfomance, for lack of a better term, is perfect! He holds true to the character of Maximus and truly brings the character on paper to a real, living, breathing, human being. And while Crowe is brilliant, so is Joaquin Phoenix. His portrayal of Commodus is excellent as well. He brings the evil man to life. To be perfectly honest, Phoenix delivers performance is so good, I have had trouble separating him from his character, and I found myself despising him in future roles simply because he played Commodus.
Gladiator is, in my opinion, one of the greatest films of all time. We have Maximus, the ultimate hero, and we have Commodus, the ultimate villain. While we love Maximus and hate Commodus, it requires both characters to make this film great. It requires Maximus falling out of his rightful place and Commodus illegally acquiring power to set this film in motion. It requires Maximus losing all that he loves to fuel his fire. It is a classic good versus evil struggle, but it reminds us that good will prevail. However, it also reminds us that ultimate victory requires sacrafice along the way through the sacrafices and losses Maximus experiences. It reminds us that any good fight is not always easy. It requires discipline, hardwork, dedication, and committment. Gladiator reminds us that there will be setbacks along our journey, along our quest to reach our goals, but there are just that, they are setbacks, and not permanent roadblocks. Gladiator reminds us that when we have a cause or something we desire or believe in, that we continue to strive towards those goals even when we grow tired and weary. It reminds us that in the end, when we have exhausted our efforts, we will acheive our goals and be branded victorious.