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300 *****

* Don't bother ** Rent it *** Matinee material **** Worth seeing ***** Exceptional

I'm not a huge fan of action movies.

Perhaps I'm stereotypically female in that respect, but, really, give me a good romantic comedy any day. Perhaps because of this, I went into 300 (directed by Zack Snyder) expecting something akin to Gladiator — a movie I didn't particularly enjoy.

I would later eat my words; 300 is by no means a stereotypical action flick with a little history thrown in. In fact, I actually believe 300 will prove itself the must-see movie of the year.

Based on the original graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 is the tale of King Leonidas of Sparta and his perhaps overly-ambitious quest to defend his throne against the Persian King Xerxes. However, viewer be warned: While he uses many democratic slogans such as "For Freedom!" to rally his troops, this is very much a battle of sheer macho pride. As he bellows, "This is Sparta!" you can tell that Leonidas simply does not want the Persians stomping on his turf.

The film is narrated by a young man who is presumably a Spartan survivor telling his story.

"We very much latched onto the idea of a lone Spartan storyteller weaving the tale a year after it happened," Snyder said. "We wanted to include a lot of theatricality as opposed to simple historical information. After all, what is history? What was distilled from the story was what the story becomes. History becomes legend and legend becomes history."

While its plot is relatively thin, the cinematography itself is breathtaking — a visual masterpiece. The men proudly sport ripped abs and Spartan uniforms, which appropriately reveal this physicality. Snyder also has an eye for female sensuality, with the women's costumes revealing womanly curves. He tactfully includes elements of the risqué, as shown in the scene where Lenoidas consults an Oracle that appears to be a scantily clad, ethereal-looking adolescent girl who connects to the spirit world through a series of erotic contortions.

In 300, a stunning performance is not delivered by impeccable line-delivery, but through a strong and intense physical presence — Gerard Butler dominates as Leonidas through his chilling voice and fierce demeanor. Rodrigo Santoro delivers an equally impressive performance in his exaggerated role as the severely egotistical (even somewhat maniacal) Xerxes.

Snyder has said he doesn't want people to think of the film like a painting. However, there are moments when that is exactly what it looks like, and it adds to the originality of the film. While it is not historically accurate, it is not meant to be; Snyder's take is a fantasy. He said he intended the film to play out the way the battle would have looked in the minds of the Greeks, as they tell the story of the 300's sacrifice.

With cleverly crafted battle footage and stunning visual effects, 300 is a delight in entertainment and a must-see film

— Katie Stapleton-Paff

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