Director: Zack Snyder.
Starring: Gerard Butler (King Leonidas), Lena Headey (Queen Gorgo), Dominic West (Theron), David Wenham (Dilios), Vincent Regan (Captain), Michael Fassbender (Stelios), Tom Wisdom (Astinos), Andrew Pleavin (Daxos), Andrew Tiernan (Ephialtes), Rodrigo Santoro (Xerxes), Giovani Cimmino (Pleistarchos).
Spartan King Leonidas and a force of 300 Spartans fight the Persians (under King Xerxes) at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
The future King of Sparta is born. He is checked to make sure he is not puny, sickly or misshapen. If he was "he would have been discarded". From childhood he learned how to fight with swords. At age seven he goes to the agoge where he is to fight against other boys. Like the other boys: "He would return as a Spartan or not at all." The future king takes on a wolf and spears him when he tries to leap onto the boy. When he returns, he is now King Leonidas.
The Persians are like a beast that approaches Greece. "It was King Leonidas himself who provoked it." A group of Persian horsemen come to the Spartans and wave about four or five skulls of fallen leaders. A messenger goes to get Leonidas. The representative of the Persians is a black Persian. The Persian describes the horrors that await Sparta if the God-King Xerxes moves against them. All Xerxes wants, he says, is a token of submission from Sparta to Xerxes. The Spartan's answer is to kick the messenger into a wide and deep hole. The other Spartans do the same to the Persians accompanying the representative.
Leonidas climbs a mountain. At the top he will speak to the ephors, priests to the old gods, "more creature than man". Every Spartan king going to war has to get the blessing of the ephors. Leonidas explains the problem, but they stop him to say it is August, and the time of the sacred festival of Carneia. No Spartan fights at the time of the festival. Leonidas says then Sparta will burn and the survivors will be placed into slavery. He immediately goes on to explain his plans. They will rebuild the great Phocian Wall. The Persians will be funneled into the narrow mountain pass on the coast that is called the Hot Gates. In the narrow confines, the great numerical superiority of the Persians will be canceled out. The Spartans will inflict so much damage on the Persians that Xerxes will have to abandon his campaign. The priests say that they must consult the oracle before giving him an answer.
The oracles are beautiful Spartan girls who live among the ephors. The oracle, with just a bit of nudity, says to honor the Carneia. Leonidas leaves. At night Leonidas is restless and can't sleep. His wife, Queen Gorgo, advises him to ask himself what should a free man do in this case? The couple then make love (some nudity).
In the morning Leonidas looks over the 300 chosen men (all who have sons who can carry on the name of the family). He sees among the 300 the captain's son Astinos and wonders if he might be too young for this. The captain says the boy is no younger than they were the first time they went into battle. Council members come to Leonidas to say he must not wage war. The king answers back that he is not doing so. He is merely out for a stroll and the 300 men behind him are his personal bodyguard. The members ask him where is he going? North. To the Hot Gates. He tells his men to move out. He says goodbye to his wife and son. They do not cry or show any emotion. Leonidas turns and starts walking away but the Queen calls him back. She gives him a pendant from around her neck and tells him what most Spartan women say to their soldiers husbands when they leave: "Come back with your shield or on it."
Daxos and his Arcadian men meet up with Leonidas. He is surprised that Sparta's commitment in men doesn't even match their own commitment of men. Leonidas says all his men are professional soldiers, while many of Daxos's men are sculptors, potters and blacksmiths. So, Leonidas figures, he has brought more soldiers than Daxos has.
The men come upon a burning village. It was burned by a scouting party. A small boy approaches and speaks to Leonidas. He says he is the only one left, but he then dies in the arms of the king. The soldiers now find a large tree with the bodies of the villagers pinned to every surface of it.
The men reach the pass of Thermopylae. Out on the sea are many Persian ships. Hurricane winds destroy many of the ships.
Back home. A councilman wonders why the Queen stays in her own home. She answers: "How am I to trust beyond the walls of my own home? Even here, Theron has eyes and ears which fuel Sparta with doubt and fear." The councilman says he will arrange an opportunity for the Queen to speak to the Council. The Queen is eager to speak to them.
At night three men climb a rock to take a look at the encampment of Xerxes. It is huge. The next morning an emissary comes to the site of the rebuilding of the Phocian Wall and asks to see their leader. He is so arrogant and boastful that he is not stopped until he sees that part of the wall is made of the dead bodies of Persians. The emissary says: "You will pay for your barbarism!" He draws back his whip hand to slash at a Spartan, but the Spartan has climbed a high rock and leaps down with his blade in his two hands and then comes down upon the Persian cutting off that whip arm. The Persian says that by noon today, the Spartans will all be dead men.
There has been a deformed, stooped over man that has been following the Spartans from the start. Now he has come down to speak with Leonidas, who at presents wants to know if anyone has found another path through the mountains that the Persians might use. The stooped man says to Leonidas that there is an old goat path through the mountains. The captain tries to drive the man away, but Leonidas wants to talk to him. The stooped man says his name is Ephialtes, born of Sparta. He wants to fight with the Spartans to restore his father's dishonor. He and his mother left Sparta because Ephialtes was born deformed and his parents did not want to see him killed. Leonidas explains that they fight in a phalanx formation that is one, impenetrable unit. The shields have to stand side by side and overlap and Ephialtes cannot raise his shield that high. Ephialtes is very upset about not being allowed to fight. Leonidas gives the order to send the Phocians to the goat path and pray that nobody tells the Persians about the path.
The Persians run up to the pass. The Spartans await them. A Persian on horseback comes to the front to tell the Spartans to lay down their weapons. He is answered by a spear that lands in his chest. The Persians attack, but are stopped by a wall of Spartan shields. The wall holds and then the Spartans start killing the front line of the enemy. They are able to push a small group of Persians off the side of the cliff.
Next comes the Persian cavalry. But they are stopped too. No prisoners. No mercy.
Back home the Queen talks to the councilman, who says she will speak to the Council within two days' times. He also advises the Queen to make an ally of Theron and she will have her victory.
Stelios comes to tell Leonidas that the Persians are approaching, but it's a small attachment. It turns out that Xerxes himself has come to speak with Leonidas. This Xerxes is somewhat of a giant and is dressed very strangely in jewelry more appropriate for a dancing girl. Xerxes tells Leonidas that he is a god. He also tries to bribe Leonidas by saying he will make him warlord of all Greece . Leonidas rejects the offer which makes Xerxes mad. He says he will eradicate all trace of Sparta so that no one will ever know the Spartans existed. The Spartan king answers: "The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant."
The Spartans build a huge, tall barrier with just the bodies of dead Persians. The Persians send their elite troops, the Immortals, against the Spartans. The leader of the Immortals gets too close to the wall of dead Persians and the Spartans push the wall down and over the leader. Then they step up and over the bodies to get at the Immortals. The Spartans are not in their phalanx formation and the Immortals have better luck killing the Spartan soldiers. The Immortals also release a huge man on the Spartans. He is so powerful that he knocks men backwards with his blows. Leonidas, however, is able to wound the giant in the leg and then send a sword through the right upper arm of the fellow. He also sticks a knife in the enemy's right eye. While the giant pulls out the knife from his eye, Leonidas grabs a sword and cuts the man's head off.
Now Leonidas calls in the Arcadians hiding in a huge crevice between the rocks. They surprise the Immortals by coming in on their side. The Immortals fail their king. A hug rhinoceros covered in armor is send against the Spartans but he is stopped by a spear to his head before he can reach the Spartans. The Persians now throw fire bombs at the Spartans. But a Spartan knocks a bomb out of the hands of one bomb thrower and it lands amidst other bombs and the whole thing ignites, killing many Persians. Elephants are sent, but they soon fall of the cliff edges. Astinos has his head cut off when he is not looking by a man on horseback. The captain goes blood wild killing Persian after Persian to get to his son.
Ephialtes is now with Xerxes and he agrees to lead the Persians to the hidden mountain pass. Xerxes keeps saying about himself: "I am kind." Unlike Leonidas, he adds.
Queen Gorgo speaks with Theron. She asks for his help is sending the Spartan army north to the relief of the Spartans at the pass of Themopylae. Theron is willing to help, but he wants to know what will be in it for him. He gets a bit fresh and the Queen slaps him. He grabs her by the chin and thrusts her into a wall saying: "I could crush the life out of you right now." He makes it clear that he wants her sexually. She drops her dress from off her shoulders. He grabs her and spins her face and body against the wall. Theron says this will not be over quickly and she won't enjoy it.
Daxos comes to Leonidas saying that they are undone, destroyed. Ephialtes has led the Immortals to the hidden goat path behind them. He says the Immortals will surround them by morning and the Hot Gates will fall. Leonidas only says Spartans don't retreat, Spartans don't surrender. Daxos says he and his men are leaving. Leonidas speaks and raises the fighting spirit of his men . He then asks Dilios to take back to Sparta his final message to the Council. He wants Dilios to tell them the story of the 300. For the Queen, Leonidas gives the messenger the pendant she gave him as he left for the pass. Hundreds of soldiers leave the pass area. The Spartans stay.
The Queen speaks to the Council. She gives the reasons why it is important to send the Spartan army to fight. Theron claps for her speech, but speaks against her and Leonidas. The two start a debate. Now he accuses her of adultery. He lies through his death saying she tried to get him into her bed and she succeeded in getting into bed the Councilman that helped her arranger her appearance before the Council. The Queen spits on him but she is grabbed by some councilmen. As Theron goes on, she grabs a sword from one of the guards and thrusts it into the body of the man she know hates and despises. She tells him this will not be over quickly and he will not enjoy this. As he dies, Persian gold pieces fall out from his clothing and onto the ground around him. The man was a traitor to Sparta. The councilmen all start shouting: "Traitor! Traitor!"
The Persians return and offer the warlordship of all Greece to Leonidas again. Leonidas takes off his helmet and drops it, he drops his shield, but holds his spear. He tells Ephialtes may he live forever. Leonidas now drops his spear, kneels down and bows. He calls for Stelios. Stelios jumps over the kneeling Leonidas and spears the spokesman for Xerxes. Xerxes shouts to his men to slaughter the Greeks. Leonidas throws his spear at Xerxes and it cuts his right check as it passes by. Now the rest of the 300 are killed. Leonidas is able to raise up and call out: "My Queen! My wife! My love!" And now thousands of arrows descend on him.
Delios arrives to tell the Queen what happened and to give her the pendant. Now she cries. She places the pendant around her son's neck.
Delios talks to the Council about what happened. "Remember us!" he said to Delios.
Now on the rugged patch of earth called Plataea, Delios talks of the 300 to the army of Sparta, 10,000 strong. They go to the attack against the Persians along with 30,000 other free Greeks. (And they are victorious.)
Good movie. Lots of action and lots of killing and blood. The movie seems a cross between film and cartoon in the way it is presented. It compares favorably to the much earlier movie, The 300 Spartans, which was also good. It's just that the more modern version has a lot more sizzle in it with the incredible actions scenes. Gerard Butler is terrific as King Leonidas and dominates most of the movie. Everyone is a co-star to his character.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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