When the Athenians and Spartans reject King Xerxes' (Rodrigo Santoro) request for "earth and water" (their submission) and to join the Persian empire, he sends his mighty Persian army of over five million men to conquer them. Unfortunately, his troops have only one way to go; through the "hot gates" of Thermopylae, a narrow pass of land between the cliffs and the sea.
And that is exactly where King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) of Sparta decides to "draw the line" and hold off the Persian invasion while waiting for reinforcements from home. For three days, that small army of 300 Spartans and about 700 Thespian volunteers held off the vast Persian force and allowed the rest of the Greek states time to regroup and mount a serious defence against the invasion.
The first thing to mention is that this is a pretty violent movie. The second is that it's a really violent movie. Surprisingly, Miller and director Zack Snyder have kept the storyline pretty much true to the original historical records of the battle. There are a few deviations and embellishments but nothing that detracts from the primary focus; the fact that, facing insurmountable odds, those few Spartans dealt a massive blow against Xerxes that united all of Greece against the Persian invasion.
All of this is told in Miller's graphic style and the visuals have been very carefully set up to reflect how it would look in a graphic novel. The colour palette is tuned to use lots of sepia and red hues, the costumes and backgrounds are perfectly detailed, the action scenes are astounding and there are more six-packs on view than you'd find in the Tennants brewery. As for that action, the fight scenes are rife with "moments of slowness", where everything goes at slow speed and there's lots of slowly moving blood globules and severed limbs and heads tumbling across the screen.
It's not all blood and gore though as there are some scenes set back in Sparta covering the political machinations at work. The Spartan council of elders are the ones who control the army and there are those, such as Theron (Dominic West), that don't want to aid Leonidas to suit their own ends. There's also a good introduction and we get to see Leonidas growing up and being inducted into the Spartan way of life.
The acting's not bad either and there are good performances from Gerard Butler, a Glasgow born boy, and Lena Headey, who plays his wife, Queen Gorgo. There's also good support from Dominic West (Theron) and David Wenham (Dilios).
If you like big screen action battles, then this is one not to miss.
Genre: Action, Historical Drama, War.
My Rating: 8/10