Directed by Ridley Scott, Gladiator is arguably one of the finest movies to grace our screens in recent years. Needing no introduction, Gladiator features a star studded cast and tells the story of Maximus (Russell Crowe), a Roman General who is sentenced to death after refusing to swear allegiance to the new emperor (Joaquin Phoenix), who he suspects of killing Marcus Urellius, the current elderly Ceasar. Of course Maximus escapes execution, and races back home to find his wife and son murdered in retribution. Wounded and sick, and lying beside the graves of his loved ones, he is found by a slave trader, and is forced to do battle in the arena as a gladiator. Thus begins a classic tale of loss, love and revenge, as Maximus grows in fame and fights his way ever closer to the great Colosseum of Rome, and the chance of coming face to face with the Emperor himself...
Gladiator is an epic in every respect. With vast sweeping sets, a wonderful script, score and fantastic cast (Richard Harris, Connie Nielsen, and Oliver Reed in his farewell performance), Ridley Scott directs with flair and a eye for detail. This movie works on just about every level, and there lies it's universal appeal. Exciting, visceral and in places brutal, Gladiator is equally a romance, a story of love lost and unrequited love, and the beauty of the film is that none of these elements seem forced or contrived. It also works as tale of political intrigue, with scheming and backstabbing ever present as the film unfolds before us - and as much is conveyed with images as it is with dialogue.
The acting is almost faultless also, with the entire cast offering strong performances, and Joaquin Phoenix giving a career best. If you've not seen this then you're missing a classic, and if you have then it's worth giving it another look, as Gladiator still retains its power and emotion on repeat viewing.