Zack Snyder :: USA :: 2006 :: 1h55
An epic propaganda-type film glorifying war and violence. Set a few hundred years before Christ, the Spartans find themselves confronted with the onslaught of the Persian Empire marching in their direction. The Spartan King Léonidas refuses to stand down and illegally leaves with 300 men to confront their enemy, knowing they will not be able to win. The bulk of the movie either hears the rebel cry ‘to the death’ with a sword in the air, or shows the killing of mostly faceless Persians.
The movie resembles a video game, and takes a bit of getting used to as the images are very synthetic. The flip-side of the special effects overdose, is that the photography combined with fast-forward slow-motion effects are spectacular, and re-enforced by an awe inspiring soundtrack. The audience is invited to cheer on the soldiers, as they would a rugby team, in their heavily styled choreography of violence.
The mythical Spartan military training followed by the manly one-liners of camaraderie set the men apart as teamed up Rambo’s in their David vs Goliath struggle. As is often the case with Hollywood ‘historical’ movies, the past is modified to suit contemporary goals (army recruitment and justifying wars, I presume). The idea that blood needs to be shed to obtain ‘freedom’ and that diplomacy is useless is the core message. Having heard the message ad nauseam from the other side of the Atlantic, it blurs the morality of the viewer. Nobody wants to be subjugated to a foreign empire but real life, in the past as in the present, is more complicated than the message which is forced on us, and it is worth reminding ourselves that killing (or war) really should be a very last resort rather than a knee-jerk reaction.
To make clear the obscurity of their fight for ‘freedom’, remind yourself that the portrayed society kills their children unless they seem perfect at birth, abuses their sons to toughen them up, sends them off on their own on missions they may not survive and eventually fights them to the death to protect their ‘freedom’. This is a society which kills a man before getting proof that he is a traitor. Even if nobody wants to be subjugated to a foreign power, it would still be reasonable to ask whether or not we can speak of a ‘free’ society here, and one worth protecting (with your life). Bravery is dangerous recklessness without moral guidance and some thought. Promoting warrior virtues, as in this film, is not going to make this world a more pleasant place to live.
It is unfortunate that a talented director, as Mr Snyder clearly is, should lend himself to these practices rather than concentrating on putting his aesthetic sense to some (moral) good, or at least into the lesser of evils – advertising. About 20 minutes into the movie, we see a 10 second dreamy erotic portrayal of the Oracle. As it already looks like a perfume Ad, I would recommend the director specializes himself away from mainstream cinema to where he does less harm. If you do go in to watch 300, choose a good cinema so that you can at least appreciate the main qualities of the film – the imagery and the sound, but harness yourself morally to keep your sound judgement.