Troy (2004)

For passion. For honor. For destiny. For victory. For love.

In year 1250 B.C. during the late Bronze age, two emerging nations begin to clash. Paris, the Trojan prince, convinces Helen, Queen of Sparta, to leave her husband Menelaus, and sail with him back to Troy. After Menelaus finds out that his wife was taken by the Trojans, he asks his brother Agamemnom to help him get her back. Agamemnon sees this as an opportunity for power. So they set off with 1,000 ships holding 50,000 Greeks to Troy. With the help of Achilles, the Greeks are able to fight the never before defeated Trojans.

***"Where does it end?" -- "It never ends."***
If Homer's mythical epic "The Iliad" is based on a factual story, that story is magnificently depicted in Wolfgang Petersen's 2004 epic "Troy." In other words, don't expect any goofy 'gods' or 'goddesses' like Athena popping out of thin air because "Troy" is a realistic portrayal of the Trojan war.
More than that, "Troy" is arguably the best sword & sandal epic ever put to film. You name the picture -- "Samson and Delilah," "Spartacus," "Ben-Hur," "Ulysses," "The Viking Queen," “Conan the Barbarian,” "Braveheart," "Attila," "The Odyssey," "Gladiator," etc. -- "Troy" is superior. At the very least it’s as good as some of the better flicks just noted, like "Ben-Hur," and far edges out "Spartacus" and "Samson and Delilah." As for more recent sword & sandal epics, like the overrated "Braveheart" or "Gladiator," "Troy" blows 'em out of the water.
Roger Ebert is a great writer and critic, but his mediocre review of "Troy" is all wrong. Ebert's major criticisms, believe it or not, are the main reasons I have such high respect for this film: He complains that Petersen omitted the many Greek 'gods' & 'goddesses' and gripes that the actors perform their roles as believable people and not larger-than-life caricatures. This can, of course, be respectably done, as in the 1955 film "Ulysses," but this is not what Petersen was shooting for in "Troy." His goal, as already noted, was to depict the actual Trojan War on which Homer's myth is based. (Even if it never really took place, wars LIKE IT did).
Regarding Brad Pitt's heavily criticized performance as Achilles, I couldn’t care less about Pitt until seeing this movie as he does an outstanding job portraying Greece's greatest warrior. No, he's not the bulkiest warrior to ever grace the earth, but he's fast as lightning, confident, expertly skilled and deadly accurate. Even his voice completely fits the role. Eric Bana (from "Hulk") is also great as Hector, Achilles' Trojan counterpart, who's sick of war and just wants to live a life of peace with his family. These two have a showdown in the film and it is without a doubt the greatest mano-a-mano sword & sandal duel ever filmed.
What's interesting about the picture is that you never really end up rooting for one side or the other. When Achilles and Hector have their powerful face-off, my wife and I couldn't decide for whom to root. Maybe that's the point. Don't get me wrong, Agamemnon could be viewed as the villain in this picture, and I wasn't rooting for Menelaus when he fights Paris (Orlando Bloom, who seduces Helen, Menelaus' wife), but neither the Greeks nor the Trojans are painted as the 'good guys' or 'bad guys.' They're just people at war, and in war there's no real glory, as Hector points out... and it never ends, as Achilles states. An additional point is that living in a state of war is a JOYLESS existence. And both Bana and Pitt get this across well.
As for beautiful women, there are only a couple mentionable: Diane Kruger plays Helen, "the face that launched a thousand ships." Some have complained that she's too plain for the role, but I disagree. I’m not a fan of hers or anything, but she looks pretty dang sharp to me (not to mention has an impressive behind shot). Besides, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. If Paris deems her worthy of starting a war, who are we to disagree? Also on hand is cutie Rose Byrne who plays Briseis, the virgin priestess whom Achilles converts to the pleasures of the flesh.
I should point out that "Troy" was one of the most expensive pictures ever made at the time and it definitely SHOWS on the screen. Make no mistake, "Troy" is breath-taking just to WATCH -- the colossal armies, ships and battles are awe-inspiring to behold, not to mention the Maltan and Mexican locations. And the CGI effects are outstanding for the time, not fake-looking like the Rome & Coliseum scenes in "Gladiator."
Another complaint by Ebert is that the dialogue is lousy; nothing could be further from the truth. There are great pieces of dialogue interspersed throughout, including Achilles' comment that the 'gods' envy people because we're mortal and "Everything's beautiful because we're doomed." Thankfully, there's not one goofy one-liner anywhere to be found.
James Horner's score should also be mentioned. If you enjoyed the soundtrack of "The Passion of the Christ" you'll love this one because it's just as good/serious/reverent/powerful. For instance, the intense percussion during Achilles and Hector's showdown is magnificent.
Interestingly, Brad Pitt, who plays Achilles, injured his Achilles tendon during shooting. Fitting, no?
FINAL WORD: If you're in the mood for a sword & sandal epic, "Troy" more than fills the bill. The story captivates from the get-to and never lets up the entire 2.5 hour runtime (technically 2 hours, 42 minutes, with credits). It extravagantly visualizes the Trojan War for you, something I never did until seeing this mind-blowing, outstanding piece of cinema.
GRADE: A+

Warner Bros. Pictures, Plan B Entertainment, Nimar Studios, Radiant Productions, Helena Productions, Latina Pictures by Wolfgang Petersen, Homer, David Benioff.
Stars: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Julian Glover.

Genres: Drama, History

Keywords: sibling relationship adultery mythology beauty trojan war bravery wall fraud hostility epic sword fight battlefield ancient world pyre ancient greece trojan horse trojan bronze age sparta greece helen of troy homer's iliad troy

05/13/2004

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