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2004 - R - 162 Mins.
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Producer: Wolfgang Petersen
Written By: David Benioff
Starring: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Peter O'Toole, Brian Cox, Sean Bean
Review by: Harrison Cheung

Take my wife, please!
In the 2000 movie, ‘Gladiator,’ which signaled the current renaissance of big historic epics, Russell Crowe’s Maximus rallies his troops with the battle cry, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” It’s a nice line – one part fortune cookie sentiment, but still a nice tight line about doing something that matters. Even the U.S. Army recruits with “Be all that you can be” and asks if your life’s story were a book, would anyone want to read it.

‘Troy’ is filled with such lines, reminding the audience over and over that this war is VERY IMPORTANT because it will stand the test of time. How ironic is it that this legendary war that took place 3500 years ago would be re-written and streamlined to suit the cinematic needs of Wolfgang Petersen, the director behind such ham-fisted popcorn movies as ‘Air Force One’ and ‘The Perfect Storm.’

Throw away your college copy of Homer's Iliad – this ‘Troy’ is a straightforward war movie, simplistically written so that there’s perfect symmetry in the abacus of Fate: Brothers Hector and Paris of Troy face off against brothers Agamemnon and Menelaus of Greece. Subtract a cousin here; deduct a cousin there.

The basic story remains intact. Prince Paris of Troy (wimpily played by Orlando Bloom as if he were channeling Niles Crane), falls in love with Menelaus’ wife, the legendarily beautiful, Helen (Diane Kruger who looks like a young Sharon Stone). When Paris takes Helen back to Troy, Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson) enlists his brother, Agamemnon (Brian Cox) to rally the Greek kings to go to war with Troy.

Though modern audiences may be puzzled at a war fought over a single woman, screenwriter, David Benioff, has a none-too-subtle message that sometimes politicians make up any excuse as a pretext for war. Agamemnon is thrilled to war against rival kingdom, Troy – avenging his brother’s hurt honor is a side benefit. Played with tyrannical abandon by Cox, Agamemnon comes across as a warmongering dictator. Empires, he declares, are built by war. Peace is only for women and the weak.

The nominal star of ‘Troy’ is golden-haired and golden-tanned Brad Pitt as Achilles, the Greek champion and mercenary. As portrayed by Pitt, Achilles is a soul-weary killing machine, a serial killer cynical of Agamemnon’s intentions and politics. That weariness suits Pitt’s limited emotive skills – especially as he’s surrounded by a number of lions of British theater.

On the Trojan side, the real star of the movie is Eric Bana as Hector, the crown prince of Troy. Hector is the most interesting and full-blooded character in ‘Troy’ because he is a loving husband, loyal son, scolding brother, father, strategist and warrior.

The quality of the cast helps to overcome the script’s simplicity. Sean Bean is the good Greek king, Odysseus. Peter O’Toole is the King of Troy, Priam. Julie Christie cameos as Thetis, Achilles’ mother. But since Pitt hogs the lengthy screen time, there’s precious little development of the other characters.

A Greek friend of mine reminded me that in those times, a blonde-haired person would be a non-Greek barbarian, so it’s a Hollywood conceit that both Achilles and Helen would be blonde hair and blue eyed. And since this is a Brad Pitt vehicle, there are lots of gratuitous nude scenes. Pitt's butt deserves co-star credit. Political correctness must have run full course because I can’t recall a single nude woman in the entire movie. However fans of Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom will be treated to a number of bare chest shots.

Given the expense – reportedly budgeted at $200 million- ‘Troy’ doesn’t awe with any noteworthy special effects. Though the armies may have been digitally multiplied on the battlefield, there isn’t the kind of sweeping cinematography like, say, in a ‘Lord of the Rings’ battle scene. There seems to be a conscious effort not to look like other films though Achilles does have an interesting lunge that is done in partial ‘bullet-time’.

But back to the script. Surely, there should have been a great scene between Paris and Hector or Paris and his father, Priam, apologizing for bringing war to Troy. The consequences of Paris’ rashness are glanced over, preferring instead to focus on the inevitability of a glorious war reverberating through time.

‘Troy’ is an adequate summer popcorn movie – a war movie with the pretense of history. But given its 2.5+ hours running time, it’s a shame that more wasn’t accomplished within its frames.

Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

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