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300: 3 ½ STARS

butler-leonidas-300-kopis300 is the film equivalent of a heavy metal concert—it’s loud, brutal and completely uncompromising. The story of the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, in which the King of Sparta led three hundred soldiers against the might of the Persian army is bloody, and like the soldiers it celebrates, takes no prisoners.

Based on the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name 300 stays true to its graphic roots. Director Zach “Dawn of the Dead” Synder and his team of tech wizards created something called “the crush” which desaturated the black areas of the image while enhancing the color. The result is a visually arresting look that is utterly unique and brutally beautiful. Imagine a neoclassicist painting come to life and you’ll get the idea. Shot entirely on soundstages against blue and green screens in Montreal the backgrounds were added in during post-production and are surreal, though meticulously crafted.

Also meticulously crafted is star Gerard Butler’s sizeable six-pack, a grouping of muscles so impressive they really should have been given an above the title credit of their own. Butler, best known for his roles in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life and The Phantom of the Opera is a charismatic actor with a rabid fan base who hasn’t quite broken through to the mainstream yet. 300, with its excessive violence isn’t likely to change that, but it does showcase his leading man charisma, and of course, those abs.

300 contains more than a few jolts of adrenaline, but aside from the battle scenes—the bloody ballet of the film—there is much to admire. The breakneck speed at which Synder attacks Miller’s story is breathtaking and exciting. He has paired the plot down to the essentials and doesn’t allow for any fat. He keeps his foot on the gas the whole time, allowing scenes to flow effortlessly and quickly.

300 is bound to be controversial. Critics of the film will cite its violence and surreal staging as overkill, but I would argue that any movie that features a blood soaked poster with a tagline that screams Prepare For Glory isn’t going to be subtle.

Politicos will wonder about the film’s idealogical stance. Are either Spartan King Leonidas or Persian leader Xerxes modeled after George Bush? Some will cry that Bush is Xerxes, the Persian God-King who let loose a million man army on a small country defended by zealous patriot soldiers to finish a job his father had started. Others will compare Bush to the Leonidas who vowed to defend freedom at any cost. Either way it can’t be denied that 300 is timely and bound to provoke conversation.

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