If definitive proof is ever required that special effects have improved the quality of movies, you need look no further than 300 .
A marvel of modern movie-making, such a stunning piece of art could only have been realized thanks to the advancements in technology that film-makers now have at their disposal. And boy, does όber-talented director Zach Snyder know how to use them
Based on the best-selling graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 is the ferocious retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae filtered through Miller's twisted, sadistic and misogynistic world view. Said battle saw a mere 300 Spartans (hence the title) hold off an assault by King of Kings Xerxes' (Rodrigo Santoro TV's Lost ) insurmountable Persian army long enough to inspire and unite all of Greece against the invading forces. Shot using the same advanced digital background technology that realised Sin City (no location shooting; filmed entirely on greenscreen), every single shot contains some form of digital tampering, providing the film with its entirely unique design.
This design is less a live-action movie, more a moving comic book. Stylised to the hilt, 300 's visuals have a golden-hued, hyper-real, dreamlike quality, punctuated by the vibrant red of the Spartans' cloaks or the spilt blood of their enemies. A sumptuous feast for the eyes, never has blood, gore and violence looked so beautiful.
Featuring some of the best battle scenes ever committed to celluloid, the sparse Spartan army kicks serious enemy butt, proving to be the most formidable fighting force known to man. Forming an impregnable phalanx where each warrior's shield protects the man next to them the Spartans live by the code of no retreat, no surrender. And they sure don't take no prisoners when it comes to doling out the punishment.
With severed limbs, decapitation and more blood spurts and splatters than the whole of Tarantino's back catalogue put together, 300 certainly isn't for the faint of heart (or stomach). Led from the front by a gloriously OTT Gerard Butler ( The Phantom of the Opera ) as King Leonidas complete with ridiculous beard and instantly quotable growled dialogue the Spartan cast all fill out their augmented, amped-up, buff bodies admirably. Notables are David Wenham ( The Lord of the Rings ) as narrator, Dilios and Michael Fassbender (in his feature debut) as young buck Stelios. The only minor disappointment of the cast and incidentally the film as a whole is the slight performance of the striking Lena Headey ( The Cave ) in the role of Leonidas' Queen Gorgo. This is not of her own volition however, her performance becoming somewhat lost amid all the testosterone that practically charges at you from the screen.
A sword 'n' sandals epic that takes an actual historical event and turns it into mythology, 300 is quite unlike anything you will have ever seen before. There are times when it will ask you to forgive its comic book excess the hunchback-like Ephialtes; the charging CGI rhinos; the ridiculously deep voice of Xerxes but for those that can, a real treat lies in store, just waiting to be unleashed upon your senses.
***** (Five stars out of five)