Troy

Homer’s Iliad, which although written around 800BC, is a fascinating mixture of fact and fiction covering the siege and destruction of Troy 400 years prior, but Hollywood has decide to rewrite the epic story in its own amicable style.

Various Greek nations have long been independent states; that is until King Agamemnon of Mycenae (Brian Cox) decided that it would be best if he ruled them all. Having waged violent war after war he now nearly rules all the nations; however none of this would have been possible without the sword of the best warrior in the land on his side, a warrior called Achilles (a buffed-up Brad Pitt).

Arrogant, rebellious and with the air of invincibility, Achilles doesn’t really have any true allegiance with anyone; it’s his insatiable lust for eternal glory and remembrance that leads him to fight under Agamemnon’s colours.

Agamemnon’s brother, King Menelaus of Sparta (Brendon Gleeson) decides to offer a hand of friendship to King Priam of Troy (Peter O’Toole) and is visited by two emissaries of Troy; Prince Hector (Eric Bana) and his younger brother Paris (Orlando Bloom). Unfortunately, during their visit, Paris not only manages to seduce Menelaus’s wife, Helen (Diane Kruger) but he also steals her away back to Troy with him.

Menelaus is furious and seeks the help of his brother Agamemnon to get his bride back. Agamemnon is more than happy to rouse an army from every corner of Greece under the guise of defending his brothers’ honour, whilst in reality his motivations are to either subjugate or destroy the Trojan empire. With a war looming on such a scale, it brings out all the best warriors and Achilles decides that this is the war which will make his name

 That is it in a nutshell; simple really. Director Wolfgang Peterson has omitted all but the name of the Greek Gods and whether this has a major effect on this film is negotiable. There are a few other deviations to the original story such as the historic 10 year war is condensed into about three weeks.

The key issue with Troy  is that the basis of the war, the pivotal love story between Paris and Helen, comes across as a couple of high school sweethearts with a crush on each other as opposed to a love that would destroy an Empire.

The performance owe more to the photography director as the majority of the leads are there to either look like bronze warriors or glamorous models. There are a couple of performances that do make an impact; first, Eric Bana as Hector, the prince who is forced into war but does so for his brother. His character is a reluctant warrior who abhors bloodshed but realises that sometimes it is inevitable. Peter O’Toole as King Priam brings a much needed touch of humanity and his scene where he begs Achilles is one of the few touching aspects of the film.

Brian Cox gets the award for the Hammy Villain of the Year Award and spends much of his time either ranting or growling for victory. Brad Pitt as Achilles doesn’t bring much beyond the odd scowl and enough shots of his semi-naked form to let guys convince their ladies that it would be okay to drag them to what is basically a war movie. His character only really comes to life after the death of his beloved cousin Patroclus. Orlando Bloom’s character is callow and impetuous and somewhat of a coward who literally forces his brother Hector to fight his battles for him.

Helen Kruger, a relatively unknown German actress, just doesn’t have the screen presence or mesmerizing beauty that the role requires. Playing a woman who face launched 1000 Greek boat is beyond her capabilities – but she’s pretty enough to launch a few barges at least. She just stands around whilst pretending to matter, albeit without personality or life.

The dialogue is contrived and some aspects during the film are bordering on the ridiculous such as 100 000 battling warriors stopping mid-fight to watch Hector and Achilles to go head-to-head like a fight in a playground. Did they forget about the fact they are in mid-battle? Or the fact that no-one notices the 5000 Greek ships that must have been hiding round the next beachhead while the Trojans discover the infamous Wooden Horse. Achilles’ one weakness, his heel, is now merely a suggestion with no mention of his being dipped into the River Styx.

There are some good action scenes such as the mano-e-mano between Hector and Achilles in front of the walls of Troy and the storming of the beach by Achilles and his hardened warriors. Although Troy lacks depth and anything approximating mythic grandeur, there is enough entertainment and action even with its historical liberalisations. Whether there will be a follow up with Sean Bean character of Odysseus (also known as Ulysses) journeying back to Greece waits to be seen.

Score 7/10

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