Based on Frank Miller’s 1998 graphic novel series of the same name, 300 is a fictionalised retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae which also succeeds as a visually arresting tale of bravery, courage & patriotism. Bringing a novel to life in a highly stylised manner that bears much resemblance to Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City, Zack Snyder’s 300 isn’t concerned with historical accuracy, character developments, realism or elements like that but simply relies on its special effects driven plot to provide a dazzling, unique & ultra-cool cinematic experience to its viewers from its very first frame to its very last, something at which it gloriously succeeds.
300 narrates the story of Leonidas from his boyhood to becoming the King of Sparta & the events that followed. When a Persian messenger arrives at Spartan gates to demand their submission to Persian ‘God-King’ Xerxes or face annihilation, his offer is rejected & he’s killed by Leonidas. After his battle proposal is rejected by Ephors & councilmen, Leonidas leads an army of 300 exclusively chosen Spartans against the endless legion of Persian army. Taught never to retreat, never to surrender & that death in battlefield is the greatest glory a Spartan could achieve in his life, the 300 Spartans led by King Leonidas put up a spectacular show of bloodbath against Xerxes army of slaves, warriors & many fantastical creatures with a hope of achieving something greater than glory.
What makes 300 really work against all odds is its near-perfect combination of stylish direction, larger-than-life action, striking cinematography, groundbreaking visual effects, meticulous sound, cut-throat editing & grandeur soundtrack. Director Zack Snyder employs heavy use of slow-motions in telling this story, which later became his own trademarks. The dialogues are taken from the novel itself. Cinematography adds a gritty, illustrative feel to the film’s ambience. Sound is brilliantly used. The film runs at a frenetic pace throughout its runtime, thanks to superb editing. And the score by Tyler Bates is pure epic. Featuring truly imposing (but plagiarised) tracks, the soundtrack of 300 seamlessly blends with the film’s storyline & upgrades the experience of this visual spectacle to a whole new level.
Coming to the performances, Gerard Butler stars as King Leonidas & he truly owned this character. The sheer intensity with which Butler brings Leonidas to life can be strongly felt in his roaring voice that echoes throughout the film. Lena Headley plays Queen Gorgo & delivers a surprisingly good performance in a film filled with men. David Wenham plays Dilios, a Spartan soldier & narrator of the film who, in my opinion, didn’t seem fit for the narration part. Others actors include Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Rodrigo Santoro & others, who ably fill their larger-than-life roles. But the strongest aspect of 300 is its visual effects that gives the whole film a feeling of comic book in motion. Be it the stylisation of effects, lighting, slow-motion sequences or CGI creatures, the VFX team has done a remarkable job.
As for the things which might disappoint some viewers, 300 has many. The entire film prioritises style over substance, the characters are one-dimensional, historical accuracy is discarded in favour of eye-popping extravaganza, some scenes turn out to be unintentionally funny, the blood looks pretty fake & cartoony and the depiction of Persian army is pretty racist & ridiculous. Still, 300 does what it set out to do & delivers what it promises; an absolute feast for the eyes that takes over the screen like an invading horde & never lets go until the credits start rolling. On an overall scale, with its scope of a classic epic, thrilling battle sequences & impressive production, 300 is a visually stunning, extremely enjoyable & wildly entertaining piece of historical fantasy about bravery & blood, and succeeds majorly because of the stylish depictions of both.