Troy Reviewby Andy Keast (arthistoryguy AT aol DOT com)
May 27th, 2004
Troy (2004): ** out of ****
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen. Screenplay by David Benioff, based on the poem "The Iliad" by Homer. Starring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom,
Saffron Burrows, Julie Christie, Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson, Diane Kruger and Peter O'Toole.
by Andy Keast
Homer's "Iliad" is unfilmable. If filmed with the Greek gods as active parts of the story, assisting the characters of Achilles and Paris, it will appear hokey and strange (characters floating through the air as if yanked back on wires and whathaveyou). If filmed in a more "realistic" manner, as "Troy" is, illogical plot points cripple the story. It's the sinking witch. The new version has been directed by Wolfgang Petersen, who has handled similar material in the past: "The Neverending Story" showcased a world where characters interacted across different dimensions, but some fiction is just too
archaic or steeped in itself that it's always better imagined than photographed. It's not a bad film, but it has issues.
I feel as if I shouldn't synopsize the story. I would prefer you seek out Homer's poem and read that rather than a two-sentence summary from myself. It's kind of a shame that the opening titles give you a Cliff's Notes version.
Paris (Orlando Bloom), a prince of the kingdom of Troy, seduces Helen (Diane Kruger), the Queen of Sparta, away from her marriage to the king Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson). Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon (Brian Cox), the king of
Mycenae, unite an invasion force of Greeks, commissioning the warrior Achilles (Brad Pitt) and his cousin Patroclus (Garrett Hedlund, in a role that is scripted so that you almost think the name is Greek for "dead meat"). What results is the Trojan War, and while Homer's epic spanned over a decade, the film condenses it to a few weeks. There are others, such as Sean Bean as Odysseus and Julie Christie in *one single scene* as Thetis, but they're no more than afterthoughts, and Peter O'Toole is awkward as Priam ("…do nawt mawk the gawds!!!").
Some examples of why the story doesn't work as a movie: Homer's generals were usually lazy buffoons who would literally handicap their enemies by harnessing godlike powers, while "Troy" contains awkward moments of paralogizesthai by it's armies. Achilles' death has no real impact due to the absence of divine intervention. Homer's Paris was written as a young punk who, with the help of the gods, tricked Helen into falling in love with him. Here he is just a young
punk, and there is no real reason for "most beautiful woman who ever lived" to chase him, unless he looked like Orlando Bloom.
Another element that doesn't translate to the screen is the characters' soulless motivations. There is no one to root for. Everyone in the film is so
bloodthirsty and selfish, so overcome with their own greed and hate, that we don't care who lives or dies. The leads get to chew on cold-blooded lines like: "Before my time is done, I will look down on your grave and smile!" Even
the sequence with the Trojan horse seems less of a brilliant battle stratagem and more like a dirty trick used by a hoard of barbarians. Two exceptions: the
only sympathetic performances are by Rose Byrne as Briseus, who is seduced by Achilles, and Eric Bana as Hector. Bana has two good scenes: one where he calls out Paris, who says naively that he's willing to go to war for love. Hector responds with a speech ending in "...you know nothing of war or love," and we believe it. The other is right before Hector is to fight Achilles, and he says his goodbyes to Priam and to his wife Andromache (Saffron Burrows). At
that point I wanted the film to change the mythology so that Hector would win.
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