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May 2004

By Julian Roman

Troy
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Producers: Wolfgang Petersen, Diana Rathbun, Colin Wilson
Screenplay: David Benioff, based on "The Illiad" by Homer
Cinematography: Roger Pratt
Music: James Horner
Cast: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, Peter O'Toole, Brendan Gleeson, Brian Cox, Julie Christie, Saffron Burrows, Julian Glover, Rose Byrne
   

   

Hollywood's version of The Iliad bears a passing resemblance to Homer's epic poem. Wolfgang Petersen (the director) and David Benioff (the screenwriter) adapt the characters and storyline to fit the spectacle of a summer popcorn film. Usually the results are disastrous, but Troy succeeds as tremendous entertainment. It moves breezily along, passing the time with one battle scene after another. The CGI and wooden dialogue come dangerously close to diminishing the film, but the positive aspects far outweigh the negative. Troy will surely be a hit with audiences and march to box office glory this weekend.

Helen (Diane Kruger) falls in love with Paris (Orlando Bloom), the youngest Prince of Troy. He steals her away from Menelaus (Brendan Gleesen) and takes her back to Troy, much to the dismay of his elder brother Hector (Eric Bana). Menelaus is filled with rage. He asks his older brother, Agamemnon (Brian Cox), to use the Greek army to force her return. Agamemnon is a cruel and power hungry man. He has ruthlessly conquered all of the city-states in the Aegean Sea except for Troy. He sees an opportunity to start a war and bring Troy under his control. Achilles (Brad Pitt) is the greatest warrior that has ever lived. He despises Agamemnon, but thirsts for battle and the fame it carries. He's convinced by Odysseus (Sean Bean), the King of Ithaca and close friend, to lead the Greek army against the Trojans.

The three main characters and the actors that portray them carry the film. Brad Pitt is an arrogant, deadly Adonis as Achilles. His physique is really something to be admired. The guy is etched out stone and plays it for all it's worth in his most vainglorious role yet. Tyler Durden, Brad Pitt's memorable character from Fight Club, looks like he's been eating Twinkies all day when compared to Achilles. Who utterly owns the battlefield and spends the movie eviscerating enemies in every way. Achilles has this awesome power move that he uses to stab his opponents. Wolfgang Petersen uses slow motion to add its effectiveness. It really works, the Achilles fight scenes are incredible to see. While the film overuses CGI FX for epic battle scenes, the man-to-man combat scenes are brilliantly choreographed and shot. The camera loves Brad Pitt's physical presence in every film he does. What makes him a good actor is that he always backs it up with the performance. Achilles falls in love with Briseis (Rose Byrne), the captured cousin of Hector. Their relationship is contrived, but it works in portraying Achilles as multi-dimensional. He has the ability to love and put down his sword.

Erica Bana owns this movie as Hector. He has the best-written character and maximizes the character's potential on screen. It's the finest performance of the film. Hector is a great warrior, but has no love for fighting. He alone sees the folly of Paris's actions and the doom of Troy. But he never abandons his brother or his homeland. His sense of honor and duty supercedes his own doubts. Troy is based entirely on the conflict between Hector and Achilles. We like these characters, but feel something more for Hector. He's an honorable man stuck in a bad position. Brad Pitt may be the star of Troy, but Eric Bana steals the show.

Orlando Bloom has the unenviable task of playing a coward. Paris falls prey to his emotion. He spurs the events of the war, but doesn't have the conviction to finish it. Movie stars usually avoid looking weak on screen, but Orlando Bloom embraces his role and pulls it off. His character would have been much more developed if the story had spent more time on his relationship with Helen. Their love is never explained or explored. It doesn't come across as genuine. The film uses it as an event and nothing more.

It's unlikely that Greek scholars or purists will enjoy Troy. It's not anything close to a literal translation of The Iliad and that will bother some people. That's an audience worth neglecting, because the film will have mass appeal. It's the perfect summer fodder, great-looking people kicking ass on expensive sets with a decent story. That's what an audience expects and Troy delivers it magnificently. I could sit here and quip about the writing or effects, but they're so minor when compared to the whole cinematic experience. Troy is a good time at the movies, light years better than last weekend's horrendous Van Helsing.