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In the year 1193 BC, Prince Paris of Troy (Orlando Bloom) steals the beautiful Helen (Diane Kruger) from her husband Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), the king of Sparta, setting the two nations at war. Familial pride dictates that an affront to Menelaus is an affront to his brother Agamemnon (Brian Cox), the powerful King of the Myceneans, who unites all the tribes of Greece to take Helen back from Troy in defence of his brother's honour. Not to mention satisfying his lust for power. The key to victory over Troy is the insolent Achilles (Brad Pitt), believed to be the greatest warrior alive, who sees right through Agamemnon. The Greek armada sails to the city of Troy and begins a bloody siege, as the Trojan forces, led by Prince Hector (Eric Bana), Paris' brother, prepares to defend their proud city. Paris suffers a crisis of conscience, but it's too late: and the fate of two armies lies in the hands of Apollo and the lesser gods.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's the 'Readers Digest' version of The Iliad, a sort of paraphrased epic, but what else could it be, even at 163 minutes. Wolfgang Petersen, one of my favourite directors (thanks to Das Boot and The Perfect Storm) grinds the story down to its essential cinematic elements, which inevitably strips the work of much complexity and some of its enduring relevance. We end up with war is hell but love is the best reason for doing it. Even the passionate and illicit love affair that sparks it all off is muted. When Paris gets the hots for Helen, we see but the warms.

Not following Mel Gibson's lead using the original language (here, ancient Greek) Petersen opts for a tonally neutral English for his entire cast, with only slight and momentary lapses, and nothing to spike his plan. However, it does mean some wooden deliveries, alternating with melodramatic declarations.

This was always a feature of Hollywood epics, although after Gladiator I thought we had found a way to avoid it. At times it seems the actors are concentrating so hard on their diction that their emotions are under-engaged. This is the film's main flaw, because in technical terms it's a roaring success. There is enough spectacle to make Cecil B. de Mille smile in his grave, and Petersen handles the story telling with clarity, highlighting the themes sufficiently to engage all audiences.

The two most moving performances come from the youngest and oldest stars in the film, Rose Byrne and Peter O'Toole. Byrne, who spends some screen time in the arms of Brad Pitt's Achilles, is a wonderful study in pouty, fiery young princess with a notably contemporary attitude and appealing sensibilities as an independent girl who can throw punches or wet hand towels at macho guys with ease.

O'Toole's patriarch king of Troy is a study in old school acting prowess, at once minimalist and enormously effective. His major dramatic scene with Brad Pitt is one of the film's highlights.

Eric Bana and Brad Pitt square off strongly as warring warriors, but the rest of the cast is allowed too much ham.

The camerawork is restrained but majestic, while James Horner's score is a tad predictable - except for a phrase that seems to be a quiet homage to the haunting signature hook from Maurice Jarre's score for Lawrence of Arabia. Now there's a real epic.

Review by Louise Keller:
An entertaining epic about love, honour and revenge, Troy is a big-screen spectacle that dazzles visually, and while we warm to its charismatic cast, its emotional layers are limited. My major complaint is that the all-important forbidden love affair between Paris and Helen, which prompts the Trojan War, captures neither our hearts nor our imagination. No, siree. Orlando Bloom is disappointing as the cowardly yet idealistic Paris, while Diane Kruger, although lovely to look at, is bland. Together, they certainly do not inspire the launching of a thousand ships. It’s credit to Wolfgang Petersen that Troy, albeit too long, has other things to offer, in this multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster. The settings in Malta and Mexico are breathtaking; the fierce battle scenes are authentically punctuated by graphic violence; the stunts are thrilling with the computer effects inspiring; and of course, there is Brad Pitt.

Brad Pitt is the epitome of the athletic hero as Achilles, and Pitt has never looked more handsome: skin kissed by the sun, golden shoulder-length hair and well-toned body as close to perfection as anyone could aspire to. It doesn’t hurt either that the cobalt blue wardrobe highlights his baby blues beautifully (as well as the absolutely gorgeous Aegean Sea). The entire cast is excellent (even the baby cries on cue), and our sympathies lean to Eric Bana’s noble Prince Hector, who is as valiant on the battlefield as he is emotionally (‘Even enemies respect each other’). Bana has a terrific presence, and is a welcome contrast to the golden god-like Pitt. Rose Byrne stands out as the feisty royal who wins Achilles’ heart, bringing some emotions that we can all relate to, into the mix. But it is Peter O’Toole’s vulnerable King that touches us most of all. There is something really soulful in the way O’Toole unloads his heart to Achilles, and in doing so, shows him how to open the door to compassion. 

We wait nearly 2 hours for the much-awaited confrontation between Achilles and Hector, and the battle between the two doesn’t disappoint. Accompanied solely by timpani, sustaining the tension to great effect, this is indeed an impressive moment that excites viscerally and emotionally. There is no build up, however, to the famous Trojan horse saga, and many – myself included – will be disappointed.

Despite its shortcomings, Troy is a visual smorgasbord, and Petersen revels in every extravagant moment of this giant classic tale that overall makes for good, old-fashioned entertainment.

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TROY (M15+)
(US, 2004)

CAST: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, Brian Cox, Peter O'Toole, Rose Byrne, Brendan Gleeson, Saffron Burrows, Julie Christie

PRODUCER: Gail Katz, Wolfgang Petersen, Diana Rathbun, Colin Wilson

DIRECTOR: Wolfgang Petersen

SCRIPT: David Benioff (based on The Iliad, epic poem by Homer)


EDITOR: Peter Honess

MUSIC: James Horner


RUNNING TIME: 163 minutes



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