Gladiator

July 3, 2021 - Russel Crowe lives and breathes strength and honor as a Roman general turned gladiator in this Oscar-winning R-rated film from 2000. Ridley Scott directs a stellar cast that includes Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, and Derek Jacobi.

Crowe plays a Roman general named Maximus. He's from Spain but hasn't seen his family in nearly three years due to the on-going effort by Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Harris) to conquer the Germanic tribes. As the movie opens, Maximus prepares to lead his troops into battle for what he hopes will be the final time. The war-weary emperor wants Maximus to follow him back to Rome to usher in a new era of peace, but all Maximus wants to do is go home to his wife and son.

That dream disappears when emperor in waiting Commodus (Phoenix) arrives to greet his victorious father. Upon learning of the plans of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus promptly kills his father and orders Maximus to be executed. Maximus escapes, but before he can get to his family in Spain, he is picked up by slave-owner Proximo (Reed), who forces Maximus into the life of a gladiator. Once Maximus learns that Commodus has murdered his family, he fights to get to Rome, where he can have his revenge on Commodus and restore the vision of Marcus Aurelius.

Overall review: **** The film runs just over 2.5 hours, and there's nary a dull moment. Crowe disappears into his role, which earned him an Oscar for Best Actor. Joaquin Phoenix exuded creepiness and evil, and he received a Best Supporting Actor nomination. At one point in the film, Maximus asks the crowd, "Are you not entertained?" My answer is a resounding, "Yes!"