The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: Gladiator

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

Rated R

Hear that crescendo of groans? Those are film snobs still rankled by 2000’s “Gladiator” taking a Best Picture Oscar over “Traffic.” No doubt, “Traffic” is better, but A) The Oscars are rarely right, and B) “Gladiator” has strangely acquired a reputation as a dimwitted action movie that lucked into the prize.

Yes, swords slice stomachs like knives through soft bread. “At my signal, unleash hell” became the chant of overambitious high-school quarterbacks everywhere. And Russell Crowe is as believable a Spaniard here as Charlton Heston was a Mexican in “Touch of Evil.”

But director Ridley Scott (acceptably paroled from movie jail after “G.I. Jane”) took greater interest in entwining an empire’s intrigue with its people’s turmoil than emphasizing bread-and-circus brutality.

Some thought “Gladiator’s” intrigue deflated when Maximus (Crowe), a betrayed general turned gladiator, doffed headgear mid-movie in Rome’s Colosseum to face his tormentor, Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix, gleefully repugnant), who believed him dead.

Contrarily, it ramped up tension and discourse about whether entertaining distractions from Rome’s destruction or ideals of progressiveness and reform would win out. Although Crowe’s Oscar win was partially a make-good on his snub for “The Insider,” his performance is more complex, personally pained and politically conflicted than he’s given credit for.

Throw in operatic orchestration of familial tragedies, Hans Zimmer’s rousing score and supporting turns from Derek Jacobi, the late Oliver Reed and the late Richard Harris that fed dramatic questions of which mandate would succeed, and “Gladiator” triumphed as a meaty, not meat-headed, historical epic.

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6 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: Gladiator”

  1. Kalenga Massela says:

    This was such a great film. Yes, it did not make as big of a social statement as Traffic, but isn’t half the point of going to the movies to be entertained? "Are you not entertained?", such a great line. Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe worked wonderfully together to bring us a good old fashioned tale of revenge, love lost and redemption. Definately one of my favorite movies of the 2000’s.

  2. […] four earned Oscars — perhaps ersatz endorsement of “Traffic” as 2000’s true Best Picture. (Academy rules disqualified Soderbergh’s pseudonymous cinematography — an icy-hot spectrum of […]

  3. […] does, however, restore, the juicy mix of dramatic excitement and political rhetoric of “Gladiator” that Scott sought to […]

  4. Nick Rogers says:

    Bobby sometimes has to lay down the law.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nick Rogers, The Film Yap. The Film Yap said: What we do in life echoes in eternity. #bestfilmsofthedecade #heroesofthezeroes […]

  6. Bobby McFerrin says:

    I’ll never forget that this was the movie where a woman brought her two much-too-young children and proceeded to make loud comments about the violence and possibly incestuous scenes. I finally screamed at her to shut up and threatened to hit her with my soda. She promptly gasped, grabbed her children and let. There was much applause for Bobby in the theater.

    Oh, and this is one of my favorite movies of all time.