More Ben-Hur than Spartacus, director Ridley Scott's Gladiator is painted with broad strokes of sentimentality, gory violence, and New Age spirituality. As heroic Russell Crowe cuts through fellow gladiators to win his way to Rome, kill the tyrannical emperor who murdered his family, restore the republic, and once more trail his hand across the wheat stalks of home, it's like watching the Zen of dismemberment. Still, Scott's direction of the action is impressive, the cast is entertaining, and the recreation of the grandeur of ancient Rome is awe-inspiring.
Gladiator's plethora of visually magnificent set-pieces are accurately reproduced in the DVD transfer, with great clarity and subtle coloring. The noise of battle occasionally drowns the dialogue, but otherwise the sound mix is good, with nice panning of effects across a wide front stage and plenty of bassy rumble as legions come thundering up behind you. The two-disc set's extras include a commentary, documentaries on the filming and on Hans Zimmer's score, and an hour-long featurette on the history of gladiatorship. The 25 minutes of outtakes reveal that as originally planned, the film was even more gruesome, but also had a greater depth of plot that the final cut could have used.
English, Dolby Digital Surround EX, DTS-ES Discrete and Dolby Surround; letterboxed (2.35:1) and anamorphic widescreen; two dual-layer discs.
(Originally published in: Sound & Vision, Feb./March 2001)
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