I figured this could either be a short review or a long review. We'll start with the short version for anyone who's in a "too long; didn't read" mood.
This movie rocks. See it at your earliest convenience.
It's been a long time since I've seen a movie I loved as much as I love this one. In fact, the last time I felt this effusive about a movie was in the middle of last June when I effusively praised Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Of course, 300 is a completely different film. It's a stylised retelling of The Battle Of Thermopylae, which stands for all time as one of history's most successful defeats, in that the stand taken by the Spartan forces paved the way for the rise of Western Civilisation.
There's a lot of warrior poetry in 300, which is music to any fan of Braveheart. In fact, 300 is quite nearly the same movie as Braveheart, in its elegiac visual tribute to the sacrifices required of freedom.
I've heard through the grapevine that this movie is supposedly anti-Bush and anti-Iraq war. I've also heard there are those who use the film as a rallying-cry of justification for the current and coming actions. Frankly, I think any group which attempts to justify its political cause with any movie is both oversimplifying their cause and overreaching the utility of the film. Wars are first and foremost a serious matter, whereas movies are first and foremost an entertainment. Trying to Rube Goldberg a philosphy out of the two is scary.
Rest assured, though. It doesn't matter who you are or where you are coming from, there's enough in 300 for you to get lathered over.
The Spartans are all portrayed as brave strong white men. The Persians are portrayed as vile men with various shades of dark skin. This could be perceived as a pro-white/anti-black/anti-hispanic bias.
The Spartans are portrayed as good strong men led only by strength and reason. The religion of Greece is portrayed as corrupt and vainglorious. The religion of the Persian Empire is portrayed as hedonistic and sadistic. Quite a rallying cause for those who look for anti-religious messages.
At one point the Spartan king Leonidas refers to the Athenian Greeks as a group of "boy lovers" and does so with mocking derision. When we see scenes in Xerxes' camp, there are several homosexuals portrayed as lewd temptations. So if you're gay, you can protest this stuff.
The Spartans make a big deal out of discarding any handicapped babies to die in a pit. Xerxes' camp and army is a hive of people with various deformities all behaving villainously. The movie's most hideous villian is also gravely handicapped, and his villainy is ascribed to his handicap.
The movie starts with a wolf-killing, and it's all downhill from there. Especially for those of us who love elephants.
Yep, there's a rape scene. Good times.
So, frankly, I expect to hear loud noises coming from all quarters about the controversies stirred by this movie. Please don't let any of those noises keep you from seeing what may be one of the grandest films I've seen in years. The imagery is absolutely breathtaking. I have never seen a film outside of the Rings trilogy which so completely immerses you in its world. And I've never seen any other single movie do such an excellent job of bringing warrior poetry to the screen.
The only thing I had against the film personally was the fact that my beloved Jimmy McNulty appears as not only a bad guy but as a bad guy politician.