Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Eric Bana as Prince Hector of Troy
TROY (2004). Director: Wolfgang Petersen.

On a mission to establish good relations between Greece and Troy, the Spartan prince Paris (Orlando Bloom) foolishly spirits away King Menelaus' wife, the beautiful Helen (Diane Kruger). Paris' brother, Prince Hector (Eric Bana) is appalled at Paris' actions and fears the worst when they return to Troy. Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson) wants revenge on Helen and Paris while his brother, King Agamemnon (Brian Cox), is more interested in sacking Troy and adding to his power. Although the rather egomaniacal Achilles (Brad Pitt) has little respect or admiration for Agamemnon, he is importuned to join the Spartan forces and eventually engages in one on one combat with Hector. The main difference between the two is that Achilles fights for sheer glory, while Hector fights for king and country. After much bloodshed on both sides, the Greeks come up with an idea for a certain horse ... Inspired by Homer's Iliad, Troy is an exciting war movie that eschews all the fantastic elements of the story (such as the Gods influencing many of the characters behind the scenes) and tries to present it as something historical. [Although 19th century scientists did find evidence of the city of Troy in modern-day Turkey, and it may be true that the Greeks mounted an expedition to, or some kind of assault on, Troy, the story of the Trojan War is mostly mythological.] If you haven't read Homer's Iliad or Edith Hamilton's Mythology since college it may surprise you which elements of David Benioff's screenplay are taken from those sources and which aren't. Whatever the case, Achilles' dull and unconvincing romance with Hector's cousin Briseis (Rose Byrne) serves no useful purpose except to give Brad Pitt a chance to show off his butt. On the other hand, one of the best scenes in the movie is when King Priam (Peter O'Toole) of Troy begs Achilles to give him his son's corpse for proper burial.

As for the acting, this is not Brad Pitt's movie but Eric Bana's. Bana [Deadfall] not only plays the most sympathetic character in the movie, but plays it extremely well, with quiet strength and nobility along with a sex appeal that puts his lover boy brother, Paris (as essayed by the average-looking Bloom) in the shade. Pitt [World War Z] seems wildly miscast at first -- and he's never completely convincing as some great warrior -- but you get used to him and he isn't awful. O'Toole has some excellent moments, as do Cox and Gleeson, while Sean Bean is less effective as Odysseus. Bloom is okay as the unsympathetic jerk-off whose selfish actions both precipitate and, due to his cowardice, prolong the war, but Diane Kruger, although quite pretty, displays little acting ability as Helen. An unintentionally hilarious shot shows Bloom and Kruger watching the burning of Troy and the murdering of its citizens and displaying about as much emotion as a couple watching a commercial for Shake 'n' Bake (one hopes for their sakes that this was a rehearsal shot that accidentally made it into the final cut).  Garrett Hedlund makes an impression as Achilles' young cousin, Patroclus -- many people feel he was not Achilles' cousin, but his lover, and he is not a cousin in The Iliad --  and there are also small roles for Saffron Burrows and Julie Christie as Achilles' mother. James Horner's musical score is surprisingly generic, but he's done so many of these things he can probably compose them in his sleep by now. Wolfgang Petersen also directed Shattered.

This review is based on the Director's Cut of the film, which adds thirty minutes to the running time and probably should't have.

Verdict: Well-produced if imperfect movie is the obvious product of a lot of hard work and good intentions. ***.


angelman66 said...

I remember liking this one too, now I would like to see it again. It's far superior to the Oliver Stone Alexander, which I thought I would enjoy more.

William said...

"Alexander" is on my list so I can compare the two of them; never saw "Alex" before.