Saturday, March 10, 2007

Go tell the Spartans

In the book Masters of Chaos, there's an anecdote about a U.S. Special Forces unit in Afghanistan so inspired by the strength-and-honor themes of Gladiator that they took the film with them into combat, at one point rigging a projector and screening it on the hood of a truck in a remote outpost.

My best hope for '300' was that it might represent that kind of film. With Hollywood a total no-show for the war on terror, refusing to give the troops (and us) the kind of inspiration and resolve it did in World War II, even a historical epic about the ancient democratic West standing up to the ancient anti-democratic East would work at this point.

I just saw the film. I predict it will indeed be playing at Humvee drive-ins from Kuwait to Kabul in no time. I'll even send a dozen copies myself. And if it infuses America's Spartans with the sort of backbone the Greek sort had, the modern Persians (Iran) should be shaking in their boots.

Granted, 300 lacks the proto-Christian soul of kindness that the Lord of the Rings trilogy offered -- the last film event with a timely message and welcome martial spirit post 9/11. Be advised, this a sensual, blood-soaked, adults-only portrayal of the limited virtues to be offered by a pagan warrior culture like Sparta. But boiled down to its essence, the virtues of patriotism and resistance to decadent tyranny are true virtues nonetheless. And criminally rare ones today.

See my previous post for what turned out to be an accurate assessment of the film from, though I was even more struck by the parallels that had to be intended by the filmmakers. Right down to the heroes' explicit distaste for the word "submission," which just so happens to be the meaning of the word "Islam," which happens to be the religion of the descendants of the hordes trying to invade Europe even then to leave it a "pile of ruins," which just happens to be the image of Ground Zero burned forever in our brains after 9/11.

And what a mesmerizing, darkly beautiful piece of pure cinema. Director Zack Snyder just knocked Mel Gibson off the "most visual director working today" pedestal on which I placed him after Apocalypto, which suddenly looks trite -- and harmless as a Quaker ice cream social -- by comparison. Can't wait to see what he does next, particularly if the conservative politics of this film wasn't a happy accident of true history and Frank Miller's source material.

Can't say enough about Gerard "King Leonidas" Butler either. The guy's been banging around American and UK cinema doing quality work for a long time now, and it's great to see him in a role that could push him onto the A List at last. (Ladies, if the snarling, head-severing Gerard Butler isn't your cup of tea, be sure to catch his warm and cuddly flip side in the underrated Dear Frankie on DVD.)


Don Miguel said...

"I predict it will indeed be playing at Humvee drive-ins from Kuwait to Kabul in no time."

Splash, my son is recently back from Afghanistan and went to see 300 the day it opened with several military buddies. They can't stop talking about it and are going back Saturday (with me) to see it again. Your prediction is correct and it will be a big hit with the troops – especially combat troops. BTW, thanks for sending copies when you are able to get them. Every time my son and his friends are deployed, the things they like most to receive are DVDs of movies and TV shows.

Splash said...

Thanks for reading. Glad to hear it. But more importanly, thank you and your family for the sacrifice of service to the country!

George said...

Sorry, Splash, but in the 300, Greek history is misapplied to wallow in anti-Iranian animus. Today's Iran is not on the march, threatening us, nor is the US's position anything like that of fifth-century Greece.

If anything, the roles are reversed. Paradoxically, Iran is Greece and the USA is Persia.

Splash said...

I disagree, George. Militant Islam is certainly on the march. No, it wasn't just on our doorstep on 9/11, it had already invaded. Had our Spartans not marched out to make a stand, God knows how much worse it would have gotten. And may again if don't keep the pressure on abroad. As Victor Hanson put it recently, the physical roles of invader/invaded are now reversed, but only one side still stands for tolerance and freedom. (And it ain't Iran.)