July 19, 2005
Starring: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Brendan Gleeson, Peter O’Toole, Julie Christie, Saffron Burrows, Rose Byrne, Garrett Hedlund, Julian Glover, Trevor Eve, ,
Since the surprise success of Gladiator (2000) there have been several sword and sandal epics that have tried to replicate its glory. None have come close. One of Hollywood’s most recent attempts has been Troy (2004), a fast and loose adaptation of Homer’s The Iliad that chronicles the bloody war for Troy started by a woman.
Agamemnon (Cox) has forced the kingdoms of Greece to unite against a common foe: the city of Troy, an emerging power and the biggest threat to Greece. Agamemnon’s brother, Menelaus (Gleeson), is tired of war and seeks peace with Troy. However, Agamemnon’s rule is threatened from within by Achilles (Pitt), Greece’s greatest warrior.
Harris (Bloom) and Menelaus’ wife, Helen (Kruger) are having an illicit affair. They take off with the Trojans which threatens the alliance with the Spartans and take refuge in the city of Troy. Understandably upset, Menelaus teams up with Agamemnon to get his wife back and burn Troy to the ground. Hector (Bana) is the Trojans’ best warrior and the only viable threat to Achilles’ unbeaten record.
A perfectly toned Brad Pitt plays the self-absorbed and super confident Achilles. He is able to end a battle with a single, perfect stroke of his sword. Pitt looks the part (and Petersen wastes no opportunity to show off his perfect body) and handles the physical combat scenes quite well but is miscast otherwise. A lot of soulful gazing off into the distance is his only attempts at emoting. To be fair, he plays Achilles as a man more concerned with his enduring legacy than acquiring land or riches. Pitt’s take on his character is interesting in some respects. One would imagine that he would be cast as the film’s protagonist. On the contrary, he is the antagonist who fights for the wrong reasons. It is Hector who is the protagonist and fights to defend his land and his people against an ever-encroaching empire. Hector doesn’t want to fight but does when forced to. Eric Bana delivers a surprisingly nuanced and heartfelt performance, elevating the clunky material he has to work with.
As with any Hollywood mega-production, the scale and size is impressive—the best that only that kind of money can buy. Wolfgang Petersen is a top-notch journeyman director who, with the right script, is capable of creating some of the finest examples of Hollywood entertainment (i.e. In the Line of Fire and The Perfect Storm). However, like Tony Scott, he is only has a good as the script he has to work with. Troy looks great but is ultimately an empty exercise in style. The battle scenes are a little too polished at times. They lack the necessary visceral quality that creates exciting tension and thrilling danger.
“In the Thick of the Battle” is a look at how the battle scenes were done. Included is plenty of fight rehearsal and on-the-set footage. The filmmakers strove for authenticity in the design and look of the weapons. We also see some of the training exercises that the hundreds of extras went through in preparation for the battle scenes.
“From Ruins to Reality” examines the production design of the world depicted in the movie. The filmmakers consulted historians to recreate Troy.
“Troy: An Effects Odyssey” looks at the special effects. To show how much CGI was used there are before and after comparison shots of the vast Greek army. Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of ships were created on computers and each one was given their own unique moves.
“Gallery of the Gods” is a 3D animated tour of Greek gods and mythology and how they relate to the events in Troy.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.
Troy is a CGI-homage to classic sword and sandal epics like Ben-Hur (1959). Everyone spouts their dialogue solemnly as if it were written by Shakespeare. Only Brian Cox seems to be having any kind of fun with the pretentious screenplay. Visually, Troy is impressive but the clunky script and uninspired performances ultimately sink this movie.