Movies: The Art of War

300 is a violent, beautiful--and mostly computer-generated--movie about the ancient Spartans. Is it also the future of filmmaking?

Warner Bros.

300: March to Glory.

Something very real did happen 25 centuries ago in a narrow pass on Greece's northern coast called Thermopylae--the name means "the hot gates." In August of 480 B.C., a force of about 7,000 Greek soldiers assembled there, including 300 Spartans under the leadership of their king, Leonidas. The Spartans were sick, scary fighters, brutally trained from childhood, the ancient equivalent of special forces. They were there to meet an army of more than 250,000 Persians under the command of King Xerxes.

The odds were ludicrously bad, the outcome a foregone conclusion. Most of the Greeks retreated, but the 300 Spartans, the...

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