Troy Review

by Homer Yen (homer_yen AT yahoo DOT com)
May 24th, 2004

"Troy" - Trojan Men
by Homer Yen
(c) 2004

The patriarchal leader of Troy, King Priam (Peter O'Toole), offers this nugget about war. Sometimes you go to war for power. Sometimes, you go to war for glory. But, he supposes that the best reason of all is to go to war for love. And thus "Troy," the telling of a centuries old saga comes to life on the big screen.

Unfortunately, the love triangle that casts the nations of Sparta and Troy into their feud does not seem worthy enough to justify its civilization-ending result. The Homeric story that is "Troy" seems more of a miscalculation rather than a sweeping, legendary epic. This is a time period where Gods ruled and those men lucky enough to be favored by them would gladly enter the spotlight to claim their place besides them. Whether it'd be for power, glory, or love, every moment is an opportunity to carve your name into the annals of history. And that is why when a small boy confesses his reluctance to Achilles (Brad Pitt) to fight a larger foe, the revered warrior curtly replies: that's why your name will be forgotten.

The triangle involves the playboy son of King Priam, Paris (Orlando Bloom); the fetching Helen of Troy (German model Diane Kruger) who has the kind of face that would indeed launch a thousand ships; and the burly King of Sparta, Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson). But these three merely provide an opening act as the curtain raises to reveal other characters and a more complex framework. The expanded setting merely allows the CGI experts to show off their talents because summer filmgoers demand it. And from that perspective, "Troy" is the kind of film that summer filmgoers should like. It takes us to faraway lands and to faraway time periods. There's nothing heartier in a war movie than to see tens of thousands of soldiers race towards each other with shields raised and spears drawn.
The film gives more screen time to primarily two characters. One is Achilles, a fighter for Greece who is a warrior's warrior. Consider the effect he has on his armies. His charge raises the morale of his comrades. Battles are won or lost depending on whether he's there. And consider the power he has over women. Achilles is chivalrous yet rogue-like at the same time. There's a nifty scene as he slowly seduces a woman who has put a knife against his throat. Brad Pitt admirably redefines his status as a leading man (and redefines his physique). His counterpart is Hector of Troy (Eric Bana) who is honorable, dutiful, and understands respect for the fallen and the responsibilities of leadership. However, while these two should be trying to secure their place in history upon the battlefield, these two, for their own reasons, are oddly introspective and conflicted. We expect them to be larger than life. Achilles and Hector come across as modern day heroes rather than archetypes defined by myth. But, their personal clashes do provide the film with a certain amount of humanity that can go easily missing in a large-scale project such as this.
You'll primarily enjoy the interaction between Hector and Achilles, which sustained the heartbeat of the film. You'll find the execution of the battles fun to watch, especially a tense shield and spear duel. However, the film feels long and the ultimate prize does not seem worth the effort. Overall, you'll have lukewarm admiration for "Troy."

Grade: B-

S: 1 out of 3
L: 0 out of 3
V: 3 out of 3

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