A film review by Craig J. Koban
2004, PG-13, 162 mins.
2004, PG-13, 162 mins.
Achilles: Brad Pitt / Paris: Orlando Bloom / Hector: Eric Bana / Helen: Diane Kruger / Odysseus: Sean Bean / Agamemnon: Brian Cox / Priam: Peter O'Toole / Menelaus: Brendan Gleeson / Andreomache: Saffron Burrows
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen / Written by David Benioff
Wolfgang Petersonís new historical film TROY is an ambitious epic.
NayÖitís a fiercely ambitious epic.
a budget conservatively estimated at nearly $200 million, a cast of chiseled
specimens ranging from Brad Pitt to Eric Bana, a league of thousands of extras,
bold visuals, and fancy period costumes and sets, this film seemingly has Oscar
gold written all over it.
worry, fair and impressionable Academy members.
TROY should not preoccupy your energies when looking for the
epic film that you love to nominate for BEST PICTURE. Itís not
HUR. Itís not
Hell, it is not even
It most certainly has scope and brilliant visuals that dwarf even the
most modern film epics, but it lacks heart and emotional resonance that make the
greatest historical films really sing. It
has a powerful visual majesty, and the action scenes are of first class caliber.
Itís a film that is wonderful to look at, easy to be taken in by, but
is populated by too many enigmatic characters who lack significant depth and
often feel underwritten. In short,
itís a fairly enchanting, sometimes thrilling, but emotionally hollow and
flawed epic that is, nevertheless, fairly entertaining.
is based extremely loosely on Homerís epic poem
recounts the legend of the TROJAN WAR. The
film keeps most of the names, places, and dates alive, but ostensibly omits the
Greek Gods. If
was a story of men and gods, then Wolfgang Petersonís
TROY most certainly is a
story about men. Obviously, the
makers of the film were more interested in making the next
OF THE RINGS. I would have found it
interesting to explore the more fantastical elements of the original poem, but I
I will attempt to provide you with a COLES NOTES version of the basic plot. The film essentially takes place around the year 1250 B.C. The infamous Helen of Sparta (Diane Kruger), the daughter of Zeus and a mortal, is said to be the most beautiful woman alive. When Paris of Troy (Orlando Bloom) goes with his older brother, Hector (Eric Bana), on a peace mission to Sparta, Paris and Helen fall for each other. The screenplay does not make many efforts to give Helen a viable reason as to why she has fallen for Paris after a few nights, but then again, he is played by LORD OF THE RINGS alumni Orlando Bloom, whom most women seem gleefully attracted to.
The lovers canít foresee life without one another
and flee to Troy and sanctuary. Meanwhile,
Helen's scorned husband, Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), does everything to
encourage his brother, Agamemnon (played with power and frequent hilarity by the
great Brian Cox), to rouse all of Greece to go to war with Troy.
Gotta give it to those GreeksÖif you even think about stealing one of
their women, youíd better expect a fleet of a thousand ships to come and
reclaim her! Who said chivalry was
dead? Maybe Helen should have
reconsidered and let off Paris easy by saying that the last few nights were a
gross error, but that would be a terrific oversimplification.
Agamemnon enlists the aid of Achilles, the man who is
said to be the greatest warrior who has ever lived. He is played by Brad Pitt as a man of three dimensions that
is not portrayed three-dimensionally. Attempts
at giving the character depth are
slim at best, as Achilles is more of an enigmatic physical presence then a truly
interesting and fully realized character. Pitt
most definitely has the physical chops to play this character effectively and
looks the part, but something nevertheless feels out of place with his casting. He feels vaguely too contemporary for the part and does
little to provide an emotional core that, say, Tom Cruise gave to his character
in THE LAST SAMURAI.
The rest of the cast and performances are uneven, to
say it bluntly. Helen and Paris are
given not much more to do other than to pine for one anotherís affection and
look dopey-eyed all throughout the film. Since
this is a film that is squared directly on the shoulders of their romance, their
story and respective characters are only sketchly developed.
The film has a lot of dialogue between the two, but its not done with the
level of wit, intelligence, and emotional weight that their important
relationship deserves. Oftentimes,
many of their scenes and dialogue seem forced and laughably inert.
The filmís heavy-handed approach to their scenes brings the narrative
The only saving graces on the performance side are by
Brain Cox, Erica Bana (who you may recognize from HULK) and the great
Peter OíToole. Hector (as played
by Bana) has heart, depth, and a wonderful animalistic energy (I feel that he
steals the scenes away from Pitt). Brian
Cox is quite wonderful as Agamemnon, who provides some of the films greatest intentional
laughs. And Peter OíToole as
Troyís King Priam gives the film some much needed class and emotional core
that it genuinely lacks. He occupies the best scene in the film where he sneaks into
Achillesí camp to speak to him after he has defeated Hector in hand-to-hand
combat. OíToole is such a master
of timing, patience, and sincerity in his
performance. His presence in
perhaps the greatest of all historical epics, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, clearly
dwarfs his performance and meager character in TROY, but what a
refreshing character he is. In a
film populated by big men, big fights, and big special effects, OíTooleís
frailty and warmth seemingly save the film.
strongest area is in the arena of
action, and it surly does not disappoint on that level at all.
Much has been made of the preponderance of Petersonís overuse of CGI
technology for the battles, but I think he and his effects wizards have achieved
an admirable job. The film has many scenes of awe.
I especially liked the revealing shot of a thousands ships sailing to
TROY and the battle between
thousands of land troops is expertly handled.
Itís funny and curious, but the individual fight scenes between two men
(especially between Hector and Achilles) are actually more engaging then the
large-scale battles. The now
infamous Trojan horse makes an appearance in the action packed conclusion of the
film that is also tense and exciting.
Itís so terribly difficult to label TROY as a failure. I would positively recommend it on a level of being a successful action picture with a great eye for period detail. Itís a bold and wonderful film of sights, and it achieves that level of big historical epic awe that these films need to have. Itís oftentimes stirring and effective. Its main problems are in its inconsistent characters and the development of them that, letís face it, the filmís 165 minute running time should have easily taken care of. TROY is a respectable achievement in the arena of the bold historical epic, but it does not leave you with that overwhelming feeling of perpetual awe that has made the greatest of all epics still memorable today. Peterson is a great director (his DAS BOOT remains one of the all-time great war films), but his TROY is a flawed epic, a great action film with boring tertiary love stories and uneven characters. TROY is good, but by no means great.