© 2004 Ray Wong
Inspired by Homer’s “Iliad,” TROY chronicles the events leading up to the infamous war between the Greeks and Trojans. The Trojan War might have been about a woman, but TROY is definitely about the men who fought it.
While signing a peace treaty with King Menelaus of Sparta, Prince Paris of Troy falls madly in love (or is it lust?) with Menelaus’ beautiful wife Helen. Despite his brother Hector’s objection, Paris takes Helen to Troy. The vengeful Menelaus turns to his brother Agamemnon, the Mycenaean king for help, who in turn finds a perfect opportunity to attack and conquer Troy.
Agamemnon summons his finest, including the best warrior of all times, Achilles, to fight his war. Achilles holds the king in contempt and has no interest in doing his dirty deeds. However, he has a personal agenda -- his legacy, his legend -- and he agrees to join Agamemnon’s army. With Achilles in service, Agamemnon launches a thousand ships and lands on Troy’s shore. The battles and personal conflicts culminate in a showdown between Hector and Achilles, the Trojan horse and finally, the burning of Troy.
The story, in a loose sense, focuses on Achilles and Hector, although their arcs are quite unlike the typical hero’s arc in modern literature and movies. There is no clear victor here. Achilles is an arrogant man who only thinks for himself. He does have a softer side, including his devotion to his cousin Patroclus, and his love for Hector’s cousin, the enslaved Briseis. Hector is closer to our concept of a hero: his honor and loyalty to his family, his kingdom, and his people. Alas! The same cannot be said about Helen and her lover, Paris. They come off as callow, selfish and two-dimensional.
Pitt, despite his commendable acting skills, is simply miscast as Achilles. His blond locks, beautiful face, tanned and toned body, and introspection are too nuanced and modern for a larger-than-life warrior like Achilles. Pitt is such a “movie star” that every time he is on screen, he takes me away from the moment. Bana (HULK), on the other hand, is perfect as the heroic Hector. Bloom (LORD OF THE RINGS) plays against type as the naïve Paris, but his role is too slight in an otherwise impressive ensemble cast. While indeed beautiful, German actress Kruger does not convince me as a woman for whom fifty thousand men would die. The regal O’Toole gives the film a lift, as does a cameo by the reclusive Julie Christie as Achilles’ mother Thetis. The rest of the cast is generally wonderful, including Bean (LORD OF THE RINGS) as Odysseus, Cox (X2) as Agamemnon, Burrows (FRIDA) as Hector’s wife Andromeche, and Bryne (STAR WARS II) as Briseis.
Perhaps the biggest flaw with the movie is the script. For one thing, it downplays the Greek mythologies -- not one god makes an appearance, and not much is explained about Achilles’ divine background -- which could have given the film a more spectacular grandeur. As it is, the Trojan War is only a mortal tale. The dialogue seems stilted at times, the conflict of interests superficial, the emotional core shallow.
Where the script fails, Petersen (THE PERFECT STORM) successfully compensates with a fantastic production. Historical details are impeccable. The sets, costumes, makeup, and so on, are exceptional. The special effects are outstanding, unobtrusive and effective, giving us the epic landscape and brutality of these ancient battles. The cinematography is breathtaking. Petersen’s fluid direction and sharp eyes for actions give the film a grand and exciting scope. With that, TROY (forget about VAN HELSING) officially begins our annual obsession of summer extravaganzas.
Stars: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Brian Cox, Peter O’Toole, Diane Kruger, Saffron Burrows, Brendan Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Rose Bryne
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Writer: David Benioff
Distributor: Warner Bros
MPAA Rating: R for violence, gore, sexual content, nudity, alcohol, warfare
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 9
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 8
Production – 10
Total – 8 out of 10