I’m crying on the inside too.

Golden Mug

Art Direction (Isabelle Guay, Nicolas Lepage, Jean-Pierre Paquet)
Visual Effects (Chris Watts, Grant Freckelton, Derek Wentworth, Daniel Leduc)

Costume Design (Michael Wilkinson)
Sound (Derek Vanderhorst, Scott Hecker)

Theatrical Release Date: 03/09/2007
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Gerard Butler Lena Headey, Dominic West, Rodrigo Santoro, Vincent Regan, David Wenham

Leaping from the pages ofFrank Miller’s graphic novel, “300” is the legendary tale of 300 Spartan warriors who came out to play against a Persian army said to number in the hundreds of thousands or more.

Director Zack Snyder assembled an excellent team to bring the images and text of Miller’s work to the screen. From visual effects to make-up to costumes, everything in “300” is top notch.

The use of blue screen to help create the epic framework and backgrounds for the film really pay off. It’s almost as if you were reading the graphic novel and it came to life inside your head. The stylistic landscapes and characters immerse the audience in a world that is both brutal and beautiful all at the same time.

As the trailer indicates, the clash of armies is not for the faint of heart and promised to be massive in scope. The film lives up to that promise.

The fight scenes, of which the majority of the film is comprised, show off all the hard work the actors put into training and the viciousness of sword & shield combat.

If you don’t want to see dismemberment and more stab wounds than a serial killer nicknamed “Happy McStabby”, you might want to skip “300”.

There’s almost more blood (both physical and computer generated) than you can shake a stick at. However, I’m more concerned with why you’re shaking a stick at blood … sicko.

Although the Spartans were known for their valor and fighting prowess, it was their tactical skills in using a narrow avenue for battle that tipped the scales toward their favor.

Otherwise, this could have been the shortest movie since “Bambi meets Godzilla”.

To that end, the Spartans took their cues from their warrior king, played by Gerard Butler. I so dearly entered the film hoping I could leave and entitle the review “The Phantom of the Spartans” but that clunker of a musical aside, Butler’s performance is right on and just what this film needed.

He is brutal and fair, bloodthirsty and compassionate, all at the same time. Though that’s not to say he did it all himself.

“300” makes sure to create the adage that behind every brave Spartan warrior is a brave wife and family. To that end, enter the Queen of Sparta, played by Lena Headey.

The film uses the politics of Sparta and her struggle to send more troops to aid the King as a counterbalance to all of the fighting being done by the titular 300.

I commend the film for making these scenes interesting and necessary enough to round out the story that I wasn’t bored by them. In fact, they proved welcome buffers to the constant battles.

“300” is probably the best mainstream film to have come out so far this year and I doubt any of the summer blockbusters will be able to convey such a complete story.

I have a strong suspicion that all of the big budget movies coming to a multiplex near you over the next few months will be a load of flash and noise attempting to mask thinly veiled premises and poor conclusions. (Yeah, I’m looking at you “Transformers”.)

The art direction, sound design and brutal battles are enough to make this film a must see in theaters if you can stomach it. Add to that a well-rounded story, good acting performances and one of my favorite lines from a film (“No Retreat, No Surrender”), you’ve got something that much more worthy of praise.

In fact, I’m giving “300” a perfect 5 out of 5. Keep in mind that I’m delivering such high honors because it’s about a perfect an adaptation of a graphic novel that’s ever been done – on a strict ratings scale, it’s a notch below since some of this praise is for being on the crest of the digital age where actual locations and sets are being replaced by green screen and high end CPUs. (And no, Lucas’ three cash-ins on my childhood don’t count because they were largely terrible.)

Sure, the political storyline could have been a bit more robust but then it would have created a pacing problem and dragged the movie down. No, for what this film is supposed to be, the filmmakers did everything right and you owe it to yourself to see this on the big screen with nice digital surround sound. Even your crisp, new plasma TV can’t truly deliver the grand scale of this film and you’re only cheating yourself if you try.