Gladiatorerna (The Gladiators) (Peace Game)

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Average Rating: 3.4/5

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Movie Info

War becomes a sort of global game show in this darkly witty mock-documentary satire from filmmaker Peter Watkins. In the waning days of the 20th Century, the world's major military powers have come to the conclusion it's no longer economically feasible to maintain standing armies and continue the arms race. Instead, the superpowers agree to settle their differences through the Peace Games, a series of regularly scheduled military exercises in which soldiers from different countries are organized into teams who fight it out on global satellite television, with a pasta company sponsoring the show. High ranking officers from the United States, the Soviet Union, China, France, Spain and Mexico gather at a remote location in Sweden and watch as their fighting men (and women) square off against one another, while a handful of computer technicians labor behind the scenes to keep the war games on track. However, the folks at home aren't told the real reason behind the regularly scheduled violence, a handful of pacifist students hatch a scheme to sabotage the games, and the exercises take an unexpected turn when two soldiers decide they don't feel like fighting anymore. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi


Critic Reviews for Gladiatorerna (The Gladiators) (Peace Game)

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Audience Reviews for Gladiatorerna (The Gladiators) (Peace Game)

Peter Watkins' "The Gladiators" may be obscure, but its plot has become most relevant in today's reality-show landscape. Its satirical take on lethal, nationalized sports also fits nicely alongside cult classics such as "Death Race 2000" and "Rollerball." An alternate present finds the world's countries agreeing to vent grievances via the yearly International Peace Game, a televised war skirmish. Small squads face off against each other -- with real guns and grenades -- as jaded military leaders watch the fight from a cozy, remote room. Elsewhere, two politically neutral technicians sit at an electronic console that manipulates the game's events. Buttons have deadpan labels such as "Distorted Values," "Slow Motion Murder," "Achilles Heel," "Harassment," "Escalate," "Legitimate Execution" and "Collaboration with Enemy." There are even buttons for snow and rain. The soldiers are at the whims of their puppet masters, and if a ratings-hungry sponsor calls to request more violence, the console operators casually obey. The crucial problem with "The Gladiators" is that the details of the war game just aren't too compelling. The most distinctive element is simply a use of red, green or yellow light strands to signal the relative peril of a given location. Ho hum. The film's title suggests a spectacular arena with hundreds of thousands cheering the battles, but the actual event is just a two-hour TV show. No need for any spectators (and therefore, no pricey union extras). The film is obviously low-budget, and most of the action takes place in and around a couple of sleepy farmhouses. How long do you care to watch soldiers crawling through flooded basements? The wrinkles in this particular staging are a French anarchist who aims to destroy the control room and a racially mixed male and female who have bonded despite being on opposite teams. Neither storyline ends as flashily as one would hope -- in fact, the rebel couple leaves the film via a drab montage of black-and-white stills. Director Watkins relies less on mock-documentary artifice than usual, and doesn't even add his trademark BBC-style narration beyond the earliest scenes. A second narrator takes over later, while captions sweat hard to translate the soldiers' multiple languages. The background score mostly taps Mahler (along with one dated use of sitar music). "The Gladiators" has a fantastic premise, but meager production values undercut the story's potential. Anyone for a remake?

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer


way ahead of its time...very strong themeatically and is a timeless metaphor. Be sure to watch the commentary included on the dvd. An intellectual masterpiece played out sometimes in absurdist fashion, but does hold your interest and may require a second viewing. Simple yet acidic and highly effective story!

alan jay
alan jay

Super Reviewer

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