Plot Summary: Loosely adapted from Homer’s ancient Greek epic poem The Iliad, Troy tells the story of the power hungry Greek King Agamemmnon, and his efforts to unite the kingdoms of Greece under his rule. With the help of Achilles, the greatest and most brutal warrior on Earth, Agamemmnon conquers the last of his opposers. Meanwhile, Agamemmnon’s brother Menelaeus of Sparta, holds a peace celebration with Prince Hector of Troy, a kingdom across the Agean Sea with whom the Spartans had warred for decades. At the feast, Hector’s brother Paris seduces Menelaeus’ wife Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris stows Helen away on the Trojan ships as they make their way back to Troy, infuriating Hector. Menelaeus, furious at Helen and Paris’ betrayal, demands vengeance and the utter destruction of Troy. His brother Agamemmnon, his thirst for power unsatiated, offers “all the warriors of Greece” to help conquer the Trojans. Achilles, Ulysses, and other Greek heroes reluctantly join King Agamemmnon and set sail for Troy with a thousand ships, ready for the greatest war in history.
The Good: I’ll start with the obvious first, Brad Pitt. Since the brilliance of Fight Club, this guy can do no wrong in my eyes, and he kicks unholy amounts of ass in this film as the terrifying Achilles. You will be in utter awe as you watch this ancient killing machine plow effortlessly through hundreds of Trojan warriors with spear and sword. Pitt turns in a solid, somewhat quirky performance with Achilles, portraying a difficult character who, in Agamemmnon’s words was “born to end lives”. Achilles knows that his purpose is not to know love or share in laughter, but to only seek glory on the battlefield as an unstoppable force of nature. Bryan Cox, fresh off his stint as the villainous Stryker in X-Men 2, chews scenery and hams it up as the malevolent Agamemmnon. Although one-dimensional, he still manages to convey a true sense of malice as well as the infamous Greek hubris. The only other real standout actor in this film is Eric Bana as Hector, the tormented leader of the Trojans. His character is saddled with the tremendous burden of dealing with his brother’s impudence, and the consequences his misguided desires will have on the people of Troy. His acting skills here still fall short of his potential (as they did in Hulk), but his portrayal of Hector as a tragic, noble figure is succesful nonetheless. The aging Peter O’ Toole, as the Trojan King Priam, is as great here as he’s ever been.
In terms of epic battle scenes, Troy (and all other ancient epics to follow) is going to be judged up against the battle of Helm’s Deep and the Pellenor Fields from The Lord of the Rings series. Unfair as that may be, these two cinematic clashes have earned the right to be the measuring stick to which all large-scale melees will be compared. Although the siege of Troy lasted well over ten years in the book, in the film we really only get to see one major skirmish as 30,000 Greeks attempt to storm the walls of the great Trojan city. Although it was exhilarating watching this massive army run full speed across the dusty plain with spears, arrows, swords, and shields, throwing themselves full-force onto the Trojan defenders lined up against the city walls, it lacked the tension and the overall sense of scope of the Lords battles. Don’t get me wrong, This is some awe-inspiring stuff, but there is a certain intangible quality lacking in the fights. On the other hand, any time Achilles is on screen hewing his way mercilessly through Trojan soliders, it’s a riveting and action packed experience (his incredible spear throwing technique must be seen to be believed!).
The Trojan horse sequence is among the best in the entire film, as is the awe-inspiring sight of 10,000 Greek ships cruising across the Agean Sea with their symbolic banners billowing in the breeze. The costuming, sets, and locations are all spectacular, especially the sun-splashed Beach of Troy with its gleaming statue of the Sun God Apollo aiming his bow to the skies. But the true highlight of Troy, and reason enough to shell out the nine bucks to get in, is the spectacularly choreographed one-on-one duel to the death between Hector and Achilles. It’s a brutal, furious, desperate struggle that will leave you on the edge of your seat until it’s sudden, bloody end.
The Bad: When you’re a casting director looking for someone to fill the pivotal role of Helen, the nexus of all conflict and emotion in the story, you might want to get an actress that’s…I don’t know…CHARISMATIC??? Or perhaps, just someone who is in possession of the tiniest fragment of acting ability??? That obviously didn’t happen here with newcomer Diane Kruger. Sure, she’s extremely beautiful and nice to look at, but her performance had all the emotional impact of watching instant noodles stiffen and clump on your dinner plate. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the filmmakers decided they needed TWO actors who looked pretty and spent most of their screen time looking doe-eyed while delivering intense dialogue in a whispery voice, so they matched Kruger’s Helen with Orlando Bloom’s Paris. Bloom plays a character so arrogant, stupid, and cowardly that you can’t help but want to smash the teeth out of his head during every frame of this film he occupies. Bloom’s Paris is so effeminate, he makes Andy Dick look like Russel Crowe.
Sean Bean, who was such a powerful screen presence as Boromir in the Lord of the Rings, isn’t given much to do here as Odysseus besides wear a bad wig and eventually come up with the Trojan horse. Besides some painful acting issues, most of the bad points with Troy lie in the length and overall pacing of the film. There are one or two very moving scenes of dialogue (Priam’s midnight visit to Achilles’ tent, for example), but for every one good conversation, there are four or five that could have been excised to make the piece leaner. Overall, the movie manages to impress despite these acting and pacing flaws, and it should please fans of movies like Gladiator, and the Lord of the Rings.
The Ugly: 50 sweaty Greeks in leather skirts stuffed in a wooden horse.