Emil Woerner’s review published on Letterboxd:
Clocking in at 3 hours and 16 minutes is Kubrick’s longest film, a historical epic about a legendary slave revolt. I think this movie was very close to being the epic masterpiece that Kubrick always wanted to make, but the sum of its flaws hold it back a lot for me. Man, this movie is fucking long. It’s at least 30-60 minutes too long. I’m an advocate for longer films but this one really tested my patience, and I don’t think it’s the length, but more so the pacing, which falls back on Kubrick, and the editor, and the studio. The film also is very American, which one may argue helps the meaning and context, but it really has no interest in preserving history or recreating it, or even making a story that’s original. There are just too many American 50s accents and music cues and close ups of Kirk Douglass for me, and I know it’s a product of its time, but that hasn’t aged well. Actually, the movie itself hasn’t aged well either...like at all. It attempts to be Ben Hur or The Ten Commandments when it probably shouldn’t have, the usage of the one person of color in here felt problematic retrospectively, and by all accounts it’s just a traditional movie. I know that this is what people did before TV, and I’m trying to respect that, but we’ve seen entertaining and fascinating over three hour historical epics before in Andrei Rublev and Seven Samurai, and although this was a studio controlled movie, I think it suffered from that tug of war...or collaboration or whatever happened. That being said, I really enjoyed a lot here. I think Kubrick was born to shoot one of these, and maybe that movie is Barry Lyndon. The war plot was fascinating, and I loved the escalation of events. The corniness didn’t really come in too strong until the halfway point (which, reminder is 1 hour and 45 minutes in), but before that it’s pretty authentic, honest, romantic, and tragic. The battle sequence at the end rocks, but could’ve been longer, and that infamous “I’m Spartacus” scene was pretty good. It even got me emotional. A pretty mixed bag here, I’d say. I liked it a lot but it’s flaws really hold it back for me. I have no idea if I would ever watch it again, maybe some day, but I have no urge to right now, which makes me tip over to giving it a 6. Not bad by any stretch, and if you actually sit through this movie, there are enough rewards to make you happy you did.