Mind-blowing, action-packed and awe-inspiring. What more could you possibly want from a multi-award-winning director, Ridley Scott? Already a legendary film, Gladiator produces some of the finest and scintillating contrasting scenes, leaving us, the audience, absolutely gobsmacked at the superb directing and acting on the show. Released in May 2000, Gladiator had audiences off the edge of their seats in the amazingly contrasting opening scenes, which depicted many themes and plot outlines such as love and war, which left the audience with a sensational feel-good factor and inevitably got them hooked on.
The many camera angles and sound effects contribute incredibly to the huge success of this film, and I shall be looking to identify and define these in my review. At the first gunshot, the first piece of real video we see is a track and close-up shot of the great warrior and commander Maximus (played by Russell Crowe) walking through what seems to be a heavenly plain of wheat, with the glazing rays of the sun glowing upon him. This immediately gives the impression that this moment he is savouring, a moment of joy, happiness and peace, as he is gently stroking and majestically gliding through the field.
Also, Scott uses an extreme close-up of Maximus’ well-built, sleeveless, but partly armour-plated arm for a reason. It yields that he is a man of war and in danger as he’s wearing protective gear in what seems to be a harmless environment. What we also see in the same shot is a silver signet ring on the right hand of Maximus, which reveals it has a sentimental value to him. Significantly, it implies that he is a man of love and marriage, a caring person, and maybe even a family man. Moreover, we can depict from this that Maximus is of high status as only the power used to wear rings of that nature back in the olden times. This is a complete contrast regarding what happens in the film as he turns from a high-flying army general and plummets to the summits of a lowly slave.
Love and life clearly connote with the opening scenes, visibly seen in the wheat plain where the immediate area is so healthy and fertile. Couple this with the peace and sunbeams, which clearly suggest early Spring/Summer, and the close-up shot of the wedding ring; everything emphasizes the appreciation towards nature and Earth as a whole. This gives a tranquil and subtle impression to the audience. This impression is sustained to the next scene, where life and beauty are depicted through a close-up of a robin bubbling away at a branch top. Again, this contrasts variably to the rough, cold terrain surrounding it. Furthermore, the robin, an animal of harmony, subsequently flies away in which we can deduce that danger is on its way. And danger there is.
Various camera angles make the film what it is, and the ensuing long shot of the landscape and animals establishes the scenery and gives us an indication of what’s to come. The dark, gloomy setting delineates that death is around the corner as black is ordinarily associated with death; therefore, it sets the film’s tone. This is a massive contrast to the earlier scene, which is enriched with love and life. The director then advances into a low-shot in which Maximus is portrayed as a big, powerful character, seeing as we see him in a rich, golden, fur overcoat, addressing some soldiers of the battle to come. This is very powerful in the fact he is the focus of attention and is in control. Images of war and death certainly come up in the following scene, as fighting breaks out between the Romans and the Barbarians. Extreme close-ups of the fireballs being plunged into the enemy indicate their perilous vigour and destruction in which is shown by the havoc they caused.
Indeed, the atmosphere it creates is very intense and dramatic as the raw pace and ferocity of the fireballs startles the audience. Different personalities in the film are portrayed in special ways, from the shots of Maximus gliding through the field to the ruthlessness of him hacking away at the opposition to him being in parent-mode instructing his defence force. Caring, merciless and powerful, Maximus is displayed as having distinct personalities, emphasized by the director’s camera angles and music. The music at the beginning was pure and simple. Calm and soothing oriental-style music complimented the harmonious setting (parallel sound.) Thus, it created a reminiscent mood of peace and tranquillity. In addition, the track was ever-present in the first few shots and gathered tempo as soon as the first major battle begun to employ the scene is fast and frenzied.
It created tension and shock because of its fast-paced nature. Likewise, a bit of diegetic dialogue added extra seriousness to the film. Dramatic sounds of war such as battle cries, clashing of swords, and flying arrows made their intended impact on the audience and left a lasting impression. Everything just felt surreal and in ecstasy. Overall editing of Gladiator is superb; dissolving images blended and connected two scenes at the beginning, zooms into the enemy created tension and jump cuts during battle scenes formulated shock into the audience and were communally used to great effect. In conclusion, the spirit of the film was amazing. Also, essential elements just seemed to gel to create an astonishing commencement to Gladiator, which left me, including the entire audience, with eyes fixed firmly onto the screen. Similarly, the performance of the actors and director was top-drawer and exquisite. Ridley Scott took the film to unprecedented levels.