For a moment, 300 head-fakes that Ephialtes will somehow save the day, and both he and King Leonidas will find redemption through victory. But no. Ephialtes turns traitor and sides with Xerxes. We in the audience, groomed as we are on wussified Hollywood movies, might think, "Who can blame him?" but part of what makes 300 so striking is that by the end, he is served up as a weasel and villain.
This unabashed, unashamed rejection of good taste in the service of "getting it done" is exactly what Trump supporters froth about when they cry, "We don't win anymore!" and blame so-called political correctness. They hallucinate visions of Xerxes' ships at our shores and war-beasts thundering across our borders, and, perhaps thanks to a few late-night viewings of 300, know that only a ruthless figure who makes no excuses for his triumph can protect us.
It's a bit of a stretch, I know, to give Zack Snyder total credit for electing the next president and ending the world (if I may predict), but not even Patton presented such a hagiographic portrait of the ends justifying the means. And certainly not in such a badass manner.
300 as the most influential movie of the new century? Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself.
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Jordan Hoffman is a film critic and writer whose work appears in The Guardian, Vanity Fair, and Mashable. Follow him on Twitter: @jhoffman.