Troy Review

by Andrew Staker (mallowisious AT hotmail DOT com)
June 3rd, 2004


It's difficult to read Homer's Iliad (a good translation helps) and not be affected by its raw and honest humanity. The archaic imagery and language are so clear yet so striking. Epic poetry has the upper hand over film in this situation, because its 'cast of thousands' is black ink on paper, its special effects and Olympic gods fly around, freed from gravity by our imagination and the poet's art.

Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm) brings us to long-ago Greece, where young Helen (Diane Kruger) is unhappily married to middle-aged Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson). She flees to Troy with the amorous young prince Paris (Orlando Bloom). Such an act insults the Greek's masculine ego and coupled with Agamemnon's (Brian Cox) imperial aspirations, 1000 ships soon follow. Achilles (Brad Pitt) is along for the ride, mainly out of a sense of adventure and the ambition of having his name gloriously spoken of 'through the ages'.

His Californian-surfie look-alike "cousin" Patroklos (Garrett Hedlund) goes too, but is well shielded with a loving eye from his "cousin" Achilles. And so ten years of war are compressed into two weeks of story time, into 160 minutes of movie time. We have the landing, a few battles, the slaying of Patroklos (and that of Hector as revenge), the recovery of the body and the famous Horse, "the first and best weapon of mass destruction". We even have Aeneas heading off with the sword of Troy, no doubt intending to found Rome.

I'm not a fan of Jackson's Lord of the Rings monolith. Troy's battle scenes, costumes and dialogue are just as hokey, if not more so. The only scene which lifted and made you say, Ah, yes, now here is something substantial was Priam's asking for the return of his son's body—Peter O'Toole is only here allowed to break through and deliver! The scene is unusually engaging, something you'd expect in greater abundance throughout the film.

This Iliad is a secularised one. There is no Athene to fight, no Apollo to launch arrows and plagues, nor Hera nor Zeus to have a domestic and then make up on a mountaintop. The Olympic soapie is one of the attractions of the Homeric Iliad! The Patroklos-Achilles relationship has been asexualised, something which cannot be forgiven. On the other hand, there might not have even been a Patroklos, if the cousin angle wasn't chosen, so maybe we should be thankful. Maybe every time we hear "cousin" we should understand "lover". Let's make it our secret. I guess such things happen when you strain the Spirit of Greece through Judeo-Christian America. I enjoyed this because I have a masochistic streak and would rather laugh than cry when I see Homer bleeding in the dust.

Andrew Staker

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