As quarantine seems to encroach upon our daily lives further, with little sign of it ending, I've decided to watch yet another movie to captivate myself. So, I chose Stanley Kubrick's epic drama, a story of an ultimately failed revolution against a corrupt society and the political consequences that are reaped from such a movement. That's right, today's review is on the grandiose story of tragedy, infighting, intrigue, and betrayal: Spartacus. Fun fact: Probably the first movie in years to make me cry.
Some background, Spartacus was a major commander, most likely the leader of a slave revolution that sparked the Third Servile War. In Ancient Rome, before the recognizable Caesars took power and refined the country into an efficient empire of conquest and culture, Rome was a bureaucratic republic, commanded by a squabbling band of senators that indulged in worldly pleasures and usually hailed from a military or intellectual class of society. Rome's classes of people were distinct, there was the Patricians, the minority of powerful elites that controlled state affairs, had more say in government, and were generally more educated and intelligent, and the Plebians, who were average citizens that made livings off everyday occupations akin to trading, farming, essentially providing their daily functions in society. A middle to lower class.
But beneath even those Plebians, there were slaves. Now, these slaves are exactly what you're conjuring in your mental images right now, downtrodden, filthy, meant to serve as disposable laborers in work camps, being cupbearers and servants for the Patrician class, but most callously of all, as gladiatorial entertainment. Ancient Rome held a penchant of brutal violence to woo its citizens into submission, as the ancient Roman saying went 'bread and circuses' to keep a populace ignorant and in line with their government. These slaves were seized from a variety of Rome's epic conquests, from Spain to Britannia to North African enclaves. Spartacus is once such man, taken from nameless parents during another one of Rome's annexations, meant to work his life away in a mining facility until his death. But his youthful, rebellious personality refuses this new order of things, and throughout his teenage and young adult life, he rebels. Physically, symbolically, through any means possible against this system built on dehumanization and conquest of the very human soul through working one until they yearn for death as their only escape.
Now, the entire movie is long, no explanation of mine shall do it justice. A quick version is this: Spartacus eventually rallies his fellow slaves into a revolt after a friend of his perishes in the slave arena, creating an organized army of former gladiators and other slaves recruited from camps and patrols, surmising to march his way to a port city where Cilican Pirates will sail the slave army away to a bright future at their original homelands. Unfortunately, the cunning Romans under Crassus, the man who slowly brought Rome into dictatorship, outplayed Spartacus and convinced the Cilians to abandon them for profit, thus dooming the slave revolt as they are utterly crushed by the militarily superior legions of Rome. Spartacus's wife manages to escape the city with her former slaver, as the movie ends on a tragic, bittersweet note, as the audience is left happy that at least someone escaped this ugly mess.
Aside from historical accuracy and excellent acting, Spartacus was heavily symbolic of how one person can light the spark of a revolution against injustice. The tragedy is, if you read up on him, you understood how the story ended. With his brutal annihilation and the victory of villains. But seeing this story's plurality of perspectives is what makes Spartacus a treasure even after all this time: You get to see Roman politicians infighting after their attempts to cease Spartacus's army initially fail, their backstabbing, court intrigue, and even a few cameos of the historical bigwig Julius Caesar. Crassus's grasp with power, even Batiatus, the slave master at the beginning, change as a person to become a more wholesome individual. But what grabs your heartstrings and refuses to let go are the scenes with Spartacus. His budding relationship with Varinia, his companions that join his quest and the bonds he forges with them, his growth in faith and culture and reason, his ambitions to become a learned intellectual. But all these hopes are dashed, making these scenes all the more grounded, tragic, and lovely yet painful to endure.
Spartacus is truly an emotional train-ride as much a war history one. If you're into historical recollections of major events, while also watching a tragic, yet inspiring today about a single man versus a nation built on sin, Spartacus is the film for you! I highly recommend, 9/10.