Gladiator Directed by Ridley Scott, Gladiator is an epic tale of honor, love, loyalty and power. If you could only see two movies a year make Gladiator one of them. It is full of action, adventure, drama, deceit and love. Russell Crowe plays the Roman General, Maximus, who heads the Roman Army in their conquers of Europe and Africa under the emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Maximus has served Rome for two years, 264 days and this morning, and is anxiously awaiting his release by the emperor so that he may go home and be with his dearly missed wife and son. But Maximus is more than a general to Aurelius, he is the son he should of had and the needed successor to the emperor. Aurelius has known that his true son, the devious, cold, and twisted Commodus, played by Joaquin Phoenix, could never act as a just emperor of Rome and he must announce that his power will go to Maximus. Only Maximus can give Rome back its freedom and let the Senate rule. When Aurelius reveals his announcement to the anxious Commodus, he suffocates his father to gain what he thinks is rightfully his, the power of emperor.

Commodus is a weak, young man. He is so frightened of Maximus that he orders the execution of Maximus and his family. Maximus is able to escape execution but could not save his family in time. The most heart wrenching scene of the movie is Maximus finding his wife and (more) child brutalized, burned and hanging on the family front porch. Maximus weeps for his family but also for his own death.

The thought of seeing his family is the only thing that has kept him alive. You can feel the love he feels for them. Crowe makes you believe the pain and heartache that Maximus is feeling. You ache for his loss and want revenge against Commodus. Maximus becomes enslaved in a foreign land and is forced to fight for his life as a gladiator.

Maximus fame as a gladiator grew within Rome as hi skill at combat became apparent. Commodus fears that Maximus will turn the Roman people against him and return rule of Rome to the Senate. Maximus is a hero for the people and Commodus is a snake. This movie is believable. The acting by Crowe and Phoenix makes you believe the stories and the use of digital imagery recreates ancient Rome down to the last intricate detail. Even if you go just for the special effects you wont be disappointed.

Gladiator is the first big blockbuster this year and deserves special recognition. As in the movie, I give Gladiator a thumbs up. (30).