In keeping with the recent trend of films inspired by classical themes, 300 is based on the Battle of Thermopylae (c.480 BC) when 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas (portrayed by a swaggering Gerard Butler) attempted to defend their territory against thousands of Persians apparently hell-bent on conquering Sparta.
Aside from facing destruction at the hands of the Persians, Leonidas faces betrayal from within in the form of Theron (a deliciously vindictive Dominic West) who takes advantage of the king’s absence to strike a deal with the enemy and move in on Leonidas’ Queen.
So far, so simple but the twist is that this version of 300 was produced by the makers of Sin City and was heavily influenced by Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name. The result is stunning, experimental cinematography that combines the dramatic imagery of a graphic novel with the latest in CGI. In short, this version of 300 is a definite step forward from Rudolph Mate’s 1963 adaptation.
This might not be the film to watch if you’re looking for historical accuracy but the presentation of Spartan society is highly engaging. Taught never to surrender, the Spartan warriors are bred from birth to be killing machines. This is perhaps what makes Leonidas such a tragic figure. Furthermore, the fight scenes are beautifully orchestrated and there is just enough plot to keep the viewer emotionally connected.
Combine this with the fact that the absurdly muscular Spartan warriors spend the entirety of the film in a virtual state of undress and it’s difficult to find something to dislike about this film. 300 is perhaps just a touch anachronistic (with Leonidas ruling rather more like a 21st century Prime Minister than a Spartan King) and it’s littered with some rather cheesy one-liners (most notably, “Spartans, tonight we dine in hell!”) but unlike the interminably pedestrian Troy, 300 is still absolutely unmissable. Warner Bros. are releasing a myriad different editions; the two-disc special edition is the one to go for, positively brimming over with extras.