JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Gladiator (Director: Ridley Scott) - April 19, 2022


4 4
155 min.

“Give it back to the people”

Imagine a country where the “Emperor” is a bullying, insecure despot who can’t abide anyone with the audacity NOT to sing his praises. Imagine a senate that, collectively, does not have the cahoonas to stand up to the despot. Imagine a citizenry that are largely loyal to their unprincipled dictator and choose to believe all lies told in order to attend spectacles of human degradation. Imagine a ruler that knows his days in office will soon be done, but clings to the frail hope of staying in power by any means, including, lies, insurrection and murder.

No, this is not Trump in 2021, but Roman Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix is completely believable as the murderous despot) in 130 AD. Seeing this Best Picture of 2000 now brought mixed emotions. Sure, the spectacles were brilliantly shot, edited and “draped”, but the blood lust of the crowd was, sadly, sickening, so like those incited to storm the Capitol on January 6—loudly encouraged by those who could feel their power slipping away like taking a stroll in quicksand. Then hearing the term “glorious coup” immediately bound the centuries-ago tale of unrelenting jealously (“Dad choose you, even though I am his son”) to present-day outrage/belief (choose your side) to the democracy-threatening Big Lie.  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (originally from Spanish thinker, George Santayana—followed by slight variants the world over).

Quite rightly, Russell Crowe took home Best Actor, portraying Maximus, a general cum slave, cum gladiator due to envy, greed and betrayal.

In the role of rebel senator, Gracchus—think Liz Cheney sporting toga and beard—Derek Jacobi, also bears the scorn and even imprisonment by those he has sworn to protect. Who knows if they will both share the same fate. In 130 AD, being thrown to the lions is literal; in 2021 is the blinders on the “elephants” that put down those who had the courage to speak out against unbridled tyranny.

So if you are into blood and guts, backroom intrigues and “doomed” heroic causes, this is the film for you.

But if you are concerned about how Big Lies Matter is threatening the world’s largest democracy, then see it as a cautionary tale not an entertainment. JWR

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Director - Ridley Scott
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