Retro Review: Troy

One of the greatest wars of the Ancient World was forged between rivals Greece and Troy. The war itself and its immortal heroes were chronicled by legendary scribe Homer in his immortal epic, “The Iliad”. The many players who inhabited that legendary tale are brought to life in a new film.

The film’s chronicling of the events introduces the internal struggle between venomous King Agamemnon (Brian Cox) and the immortal Achilles (Brad Pitt) then follows loyal Hector (Eric Bana) and coward Paris (Orlando Bloom) as they take Queen Helen of Sparta (Diane Kruger) to the walled city of Troy. Paris is deeply in love with the tormented Helen but upon Greek shores a massive army is forming to bring Helen back. For once the Greek kingdoms have something they can fight as one country. This makes Agamemnon very happy as he has finally found an excuse to storm the walls of Troy. And he will bring the fierce Achilles along for the ride.

Director Wolfgang Petersen’s epic is a dynamic recreation of the world of Ancient Greece, the political entanglements and the epic Trojan battle. Petersen’s epic battle sequences and the duels between characters are overwhelming, thought captivating and utterly meticulous. When the film focused on battles it was unforgettable but it was the quiet dialogue-laden political scenes that seemed to ruin the film’s momentum. A lot of the key actors in the ensemble cast seem out of their depth and make some of the key subplots hard to watch.

The perfect example of a weak subplot is the relationship between Paris and Helen. Bloom’s Paris is so unlikable that we really just want to strangle the poor boy. He makes “lovey-dovey” eyes at some guy’s wife and thousands of people die. The couple has no chemistry as lovers so you never really believe that there is something worth fighting for. I can’t really blame Bloom for making Paris such a half-wit but the film should have found some sort of way for us to understand Paris even if it was just a little.

I was very unimpressed with Diane Kruger as Helen. The German actress is way out of her depth as she struggles in every scene. The woman is attractive but is she really worthy of launching 1000 ships. What made Helen tick? Who was this mythical beauty? None of those questions are even touched or explored in Troy.

The film also relies heavily on Pitt’s portrayal of Achilles as the audience probably gets to know him the most in the film. The film’s finale makes it very hard to feel for the character and thus ruins a stalwart performance from Pitt. I really liked Pitt as Achilles. I really liked the storyline between Achilles and the Trojan priestess. From that relationship we actually begin to see a man inside the fluidic killing machine. Their storyline was so much more intriguing than that of Paris and Helen.

I have to admit that I wasn’t to keen on seeing Eric Bana as Hector. But as the film progressed, I really found that Bana grew on me. His restraint in playing Hector makes the champion approachable and relatable. I really liked a lot of what Bana was able to bring to the character. Bana is amazing in the role.

I would have loved to have seen more of Sean Bean as Odysseus. Bean is starting to become such an unforgettable supporting player. His role in this film is almost as powerful as his portrayal of Boromir in “Fellowship of the Ring”. I wonder what it would be like to see Bean’s Odysseus return for a retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey. Well I can dream can’t I?

For me the greatest moments in Troy come from acting legends Brian Cox and Peter O’Toole. These veterans shine in their roles. Cox brings a lot of uneasiness, sarcasm and vulgarity to Agamemnon which does so much for the character. O’Toole’s fragile look and sincerity make his King Priam unforgettable. My favorite scene in the film is the tent scene between a distraught King Priam and Achilles. I loved everything about it. The sad thing is that the rest of the film needed more of that kind of emotional magic

I wanted Troy to be the grand scaled epic that Homer transcribed so many years ago. But the emotion, grandeur and greatness of the story seems to be missing in this retelling. I was hoping the film would be closer to a “Braveheart” or “Gladiator” but something is missing. I just wanted a lot more.

(3.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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