"At my signal unleash hell." Maximus

"At my signal unleash hell." Maximus

☆ Classic 

Gladiator (2000) is an acting tour de force for Russell Crowe.

Directed by Ridley Scott.

Starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Richard Harris, Oliver Reed among many others.

Some films from the start transport you to a world you could only read about in novels. Even fewer films have a lead actor that cements the directors creative reality with his presence and manner and physicality. Ridley's directing and Russell's acting tandem remind me of Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski's team-up for Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes, Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972). From the moment you see Russell in Germania with his Roman legions you are taken back 2,000 years. Scott has always been to me an epic film maker in the mold of David Lean.

Russell is magnetic as Maximus. What I always enjoy about Crowe's acting is his believability. I believe every word and action emanating from his being. In this towering role he reminded me of John Wayne. If you look closely most of Russell's scene partners are much taller and bigger than he is and yet they are no match for Russell's prodigious acting gifts which make him a giant among men.

Connie is breathtaking in her performance. She steals every scene she is in with a subdued and eloquent presence. I first saw Nielsen in The Devil's Advocate and thought she was an acting force to be reckoned with. Connie proves me right in this film. I first took notice of Joaquin in this film. Phoenix's younger sibling River cast a large shadow that Joaquin has managed to overcome. I love the way Phoenix mocks Russell's sword play by twirling his hands.

In the scene below I love the interaction between Russell and Connie. Watch how Connie plays her characters subtext of seduction. Crowe looks to be enjoying Nielsens subtle seduction.

Trivia - The wounds on Russell's face in the opening scene are real. Crowe's horse got startled and backed Russell into tree branches.