- 300 (2006) movie review: In his best role to date, Gerard Butler stands out in Zack Snyder’s video-game-like recreation of the lopsided 5th-century B.C.E. war between the Spartan and Persian armies.
300 movie review: Zack Snyder’s historical war flick is a dazzling visual fest akin to an HD video game playing itself
Director Zack Snyder’s 300 may not be the most sophisticated war epic to hit the big screen, but with its series of mesmerizing tableaux and extreme graphic violence the film unquestionably succeeds in dazzling its audience.
In other words: Watching 300 is like watching a video game that plays itself.
Set in 480 B.C.E., 300 recounts the fate of King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) of Sparta, as he leads three hundred of his men to battle the superior Persian army of Xerxes the Great (Rodrigo Santoro). The battle is fought at Thermopylae, where Leonidas and his outnumbered soldiers struggle to block the only route through which the enemy could pass.
Setting new standards in the field of computer-generated effects, Zack Snyder (who co-wrote the screenplay with Kurt Johnstad and Michael B. Gordon), cinematographer Larry Fong, editor William Hoy, and the movie’s visual effects team used blue screen technique – through which actors are filmed in front of a blue screen before the addition of CGI-created backgrounds – to assemble glorious, nail-biting battle scenes. As a plus, the omnipresence of sepia mixed with blue and red provides the war epic with the appropriately gloomy mood.
Those who enjoyed Snyder’s 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead already know that he’s a dab hand at fast-paced filmmaking. But this time, Snyder combines his energetic style with a substantial number of spectacular slow-motion sequences depicting every detail of the battle’s ferocious brutality.
In fact, 300 is packed with decapitations and severed body parts, but considering that the film is based on a graphic novel co-written by Frank Miller (with Lynn Varley) its degree of violence should not surprise anyone.
Stand-out Gerard Butler
Apart from the battle sequences, however, 300 has little else to offer.
A subplot – involving Leonidas’ wife, Goro (Lena Headey), fighting against political discrimination – falls flat, while the focus on the Spartans’ refusal to surrender doesn’t spark any significant interest.
On the other hand, Gerard Butler stands out as the King of Sparta – the Scottish actor’s best role yet. Butler fully conveys Leonidas’ fierceness and sacrificial beliefs even though the screenwriters failed to supply him with coherent lines.
‘This is where we look for the game controller!’
In fact, sentences like “Madness? This is Sparta” or “This is where we fight! This is where we die!” made this reviewer look for a game controller so as to skip the dialogue bits.
Although 300 lacks the storytelling flow of Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of Miller’s Sin City, Zack Snyder’s epic works just fine as a brainless blockbuster. Indeed, the visuals alone are worth a trip to the theatre.
Director: Zack Snyder.
Screenplay: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, and Michael B. Gordon.
Cast: Gerard Butler. Lena Headey. Dominic West. David Wenham. Vincent Regan. Michael Fassbender. Tom Wisdom. Rodrigo Santoro. Andrew Pleavin. Andrew Tiernan. Giovani Cimmino. Stephen McHattie.
“300 Movie (2006) Review: Dazzling + Brainless Historical Epic” review text © Franck Tabouring; excerpt, image captions, bullet point introduction, and notes/endnotes © Alt Film Guide.
“300 Movie (2006) Review” endnotes
Gerard Butler 300 movie image: Warner Bros.
“300 Movie (2006) Review: Dazzling + Brainless Historical Epic” last updated in September 2021.