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Maximus (Russell Crowe)
Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix)
Lucilla (Connie Nielsen)
Proximo (Oliver Reed)
Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris)

Directed By Ridley Scott Written by David H. Franzoni
Rated R for intense graphic content Running Time: 154 minutes
Distributed by Dreamworks and Universal
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Gladiator is an awesome, brutal and creative Roman epic. The great Roman General Maximus (Crowe) has once again led the legions to victory on the battlefield. With the war won, Maximus dreams of home, wanting only to return to his wife and son. However, the dying Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Harris) has one more duty for the general-to assume the mantle of his power. Jealous of Maximus' favor with the Emperor, the heir to the throne, Commodus (Phoenix) orders his execution-and that of his family. Barley escaping death, Maximus is forced into slavery and trained as a gladiator in the arena, where his fame grows. Next Maximus goes to Rome, on a quest of having his vengeance against the new Emperor, Commodus.

Gladiator is a masterpiece that is full of energy, excitement and revenge. The film does capture some of the same aspects and feelings of Mel Gibson's classic Braveheart.

Director Ridley Scott develops a stunning and accurate atmosphere for the film's setting. Scott blends huge sets with many computer-generated effects to develop Rome and its famous Coliseum, where the games of the gladiators take place. Pieces of Gibson's direction in Braveheart and Spielberg's direction in Saving Private Ryan are taken by Scott to create a distorted and chaotic opening war sequence in the film.

David H. Franzoni wrote the script for the film. The writing flows well and the characters are established. The only problem I had with the script (or the film itself) is an aspect containing the evil Commodus and the hero Maximus at the film's climax. I can't say exactly what it is, because it will ruin the ending of the film for you. Overall, the script is very good with a nice blend of emotion and action.

Russell Crowe is a perfect cast as Maximus. Crowe gives a forceful performance as the film's hero. Crowe, alongside Edward Norton, is the best up and coming actor in Hollywood. He has fabulous eyes, a presentable voice and outstanding range. Crowe has now broken as a Hollywood movie star with his performance in Gladiator. Joaquin Phoenix is terrific as the sick and evil Emperor, Commodus. In addition to, Connie Nielsen delivers an emotionally in depth role as Lucilla, who is Commodus' sister. Also, I was glad to see Dijmon Hounsou back in a movie as Maximus' gladiator friend. Hounsou was the scene-stealing Cinque in Steven Spielberg's Amistad. The late Oliver Reed turns in a very good performance as Maximus' gladiator mentor, Proximo. Reed died of heart failure 61 days into the shooting of the film. Computer effects are used to digitally create Reed in his last scene towards the end of the film.

Gladiator is an amazing movie that gets you pumped up. It is full of adrenaline and action, but it does have a strong story behind it. Watch for this film to pull in a ton of money at the box office. Gladiator is the first blockbuster of the summer, and it might already be the best movie to come out this summer.

Report Card Grade: A-

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