By Bret Polish, 16, Cleveland HS
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It may not be deep, but Gladiator is terrific, awe-inspiring storytelling on all levels. Here’s the basic story: Through a series of unusual events, the once powerful Roman general Maximus is sold into slavery and is forced to become a gladiator. Due to his overwhelming success in this deadly spectator sport, it is not long before Maximus’ fame brings him face to face with the emperor himself.

This is a movie about fighting, so prepare for carnage. I think the violence was a little overdone. This is not Saving Private Ryan—do we need to see all that blood and gore?

Historians will no doubt complain about Gladiator, but this is not an educational re-creation. Gladiator jumbles various real life events and people with fictional incidents and characters. Maybe it’s not historically accurate but who cares? Gladiator certainly seems realistic, which is more than enough to create a successful adventure movie.

With Gladiator, director Ridley Scott makes a triumphant return to the screen after several painful duds. At least so far, it seems as though for every good film like Blade Runner (1982) he’s had at least two mediocre ones like Legend (1986) and 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992). Collaborating with cinematographer John Mathieson, Scott has constructed an authentic world that captures the look and feel of ancient Rome. The film is visually dazzling and frequently resembles famous paintings, but the director still manages to keep the focus intimate, concentrating almost solely on the characters and the action, not the backdrop.

Although generally films of this sort don’t attract first-rate actors, the Gladiator script luckily drew wonderful performers like Russell Crowe, Oliver Reed and Joaquin Phoenix. There’s not a single bad apple in the cast, but Russell Crowe’s splendid performance shines. In a role that will surely establish him as an A-list movie star, Crowe (who was last seen in The Insider) may be up for an Academy Award.

Gladiator doesn’t exactly venture into uncharted territory. It’s just wonderful entertainment, and that’s really what movies are all about.