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TROY (R) 2004

Warner Brothers

Official Site

Director: Wolfgang Petersen

Producers: Wolfgang Petersen, Diana Rathbun, Colin Wilson

Written by: David Benioff

Cast: Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, Brendan Gleeson, Brian Cox, Saffron Burrows, Diane Kruger, Julie Christie, Garrett Hedlund, Tyler Mane, Sean Bean, Peter O’Toole

 

 Rating:


Early out of the starting gate in time for the summer season block-buster fare is Troy, the much anticipated film starring Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom. In myth, and now on the big screen as well, Troy was the long-standing rival of its Aegean neighbor, the nearby and newly organized city-states of Greece. Ruled by Agamemnon (Cox), Greece was at the height of its power in part because Achilles (Pitt), its greatest warrior, was at its ready disposal. But the tenuous peace between these two countries is breached when Prince Paris (Bloom) steals away the Mrs. Helen, Queen of Sparta, (Kruger) thus giving the jilted King Menelaus (Gleeson), his brother Agamemnon, and an assortment of trusty fighters, including Ajax (Mane) and Odysseus (Bean) an excuse to attack the well-fortified city of Troy.

Any bad habits on the part of a reviewer to spoil the ending of a film can surely be forgiven this time around. Most people have at the least a vague recollection of the ancient Greek writer Homer and his epic story of the Trojan War, and as filmgoers we’re all going to have to get used to conventional material dominating the screens. As has been pointed out previously by Hollywood insiders, the trend now is to rely more heavily than ever before on screenplays based on best-selling books, comics, old TV shows, updated remakes of classics… and now add classic Greek literature to that list. With film production costs and actors’ salaries soaring to all-time highs, the pressure to produce a box office hit that can recoup its initial exorbitant investment will be greater and greater. So we can expect to see safe, reliable material that seems a surer bet than an original, untested idea. Creativity suffers. That’s certainly true of Troy. Even if one cannot remember the specifics of who dies when and how, most people know Troy falls to the Greeks when the hollow wooden horse filled with Greek soldiers is naively wheeled into the city. Most people know the over-confident Achilles is killed by taking a shot in the heel, of all places. Yes, the greatest flaw of Troy is its predictability. And particularly after sitting through three years of Lord Of The Rings-style fighting with battle-clad warriors wielding primitive swords, clubs, and shields, the threshold for this fighting-action genre is starting to wear thin.

Still, Troy does have a few things working in its favor. Some of the performances are top notch. Who better to bring a touch of stoic nobility to the part of good King Priam than an old school British actor like Peter O’Toole? Of course, the real attraction here is intended to be Orlando Bloom, fresh from the successes of Lord Of The Rings and Pirates Of The Caribbean, and Brad Pitt, who requires no introduction. It goes without saying that Pitt is quite the spectacle here. Tanned, blond, and muscular, playing a mortal with god-like skills comes naturally for this larger-than-life sex symbol celebrity. Yet considering the dialogue is mostly grunting and casting off one-liners about, war, glory and having one’s name remembered for all of posterity, no Academy-nominated performances are going on here. Unfortunately Bloom’s part is a little disappointing, because this time out he’s no hero, but an unlikable prince who isn’t sexy. We can’t root for him to succeed because stealing another man’s wife and spiriting her away to Troy is cowardly. And if you’re going to take such bold steps there ought to be a red-hot romance to convince us Helen is worth the trouble, but no such sparks fly. Bloom’s Paris is a quivering wimp and Helen is a vacillating whiner, teary-eyed and regretful of her actions yet incapable of correcting her mistakes.

On-screen love scenes can sometimes bog down a picture but they’re totally lacking in Troy. If you’re going spark a war that will kill tens of thousands of men, the sex better be worth it, but director Wolfgang Petersen, known best for taut-paced thrillers heavy on the action, (Air Force One, Das Boot) cuts out the essential romance. So the supposedly momentous “kidnapping” that ultimately leads Troy and Greece on the path to war lacks the “so what” factor. Besides, Helen’s Greek husband, Prince Menelaus is a loud, overbearing slob who tosses back goblets of wine and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. The decision to leave him for a younger, well-mannered prince is a no-brainer. And what of that face that “launched a thousand ships”? If you like blondes, Helen, played by German ballet dancer and high-fashion model Diane Kruger, fits the bill. She’s easy on the eye and has a minor speaking role, which is all the part really requires.

But forget for a moment about Achilles, Helen, and Paris. Where Troy really shines is in the lesser-hyped performances of Sean Bean and Eric Bana. Bean plays the easy-going Odysseus, loyal to his king and willing to fight against Troy, but sympathetic to follies of war, as expressed by the temperamental ranting of his friend Achilles. Bana’s performance as Prince Hector, the wiser older brother of Paris, outshines them all. This former stand-up comic brings surprising depth, gentleness, and brimming sexuality to the ill-fated Prince Hector. The real sex symbols in Troy aren’t Pitt and Bloom but Bean and Bana. Together these two performances make Troy nominally recommended for an afternoon trip to the theater.

—Nancy Semin

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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