Swords and Sex
Greek mythology never looked so appealing before this epic.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
For those of us whose Greek mythology knowledge was a bit fuzzy before entering the theater, Troy opens with several minutes of back-story text scrolling over a map of ancient Greece.
This helps to explain what we’re about to witness, and it doesn’t. The epic is “inspired” by Homer’s Iliad , but by the end of the long film, it really does stand alone as a heroic tale. Past history is helpful to delve into motivations, etc., but it flashes by too quickly, and most people will come to Troy for two things: battle scenes and Brad.
Brad Pitt fully lives his role of Achilles, the renegade soldier from Sparta. Although he is “employed” by King Agamemnon (Brian Cox), Achilles believes he will become eternally famous through battle. He scorns the gods and frequently disobeys orders. In his opening battle, Agamemnon calls for him to defeat a brute of a man single-handedly; however, Achilles must be roused from his tent, still entwined with two young ladies who presumably helped him celebrate his previous victory. Pitt has the rough edge and golden looks to make this egomaniac warrior tolerable.
The catalyst for Troy ’s huge battle scenes, complete with hundreds of ships sailing the Aegean, is a bit of adultery on the part of Prince Paris of Troy (Orlando Bloom). Just after he and his older brother Hector (Eric Bana) have secured a peace agreement with King Menelaus of Sparta (Brendan Gleeson), Paris goes upstairs to secure a bedroom agreement with the king’s lovely young wife Helen (Diane Kruger). They are so in love, she stows away on his ship the next morning, and when Menelaus finds out…well, you can imagine the whole peace thing is off.
Hector, of course, is furious, knowing he will have to explain the actions of his playboy brother to their father, the aging King Priam (Peter O’Toole), and defend Troy from attack. Bana does a wonderful job portraying Hector as honest and noble, with wide-eyed intensity. While he does not like violence, he will fight to the death to defend his family and homeland.
And so the story is set: King Menelaus enlists his brother, the greedy King Agamemnon to rally gigantic forces to sail on Troy, recapture Helen, and hopefully add some territory to his already vast empire.
The movie is long, but this is fitting since the story is dense, and between exciting battles, there is a great deal of talking about honor and appeasing the gods. Achilles gets a lion’s share of screen-time, much of it in states of undress that are conspicuous. (Yes, I know it’s hot in Greece, and wearing battle-armor makes you sweat, but do heroes always show so much skin?)
The last-minute, ace-in-the-hole wooden horse created by Odysseus (Sean Bean) acts almost as relief to the endless war. The scenes of the Trojan Horse, secretly filled with warriors (like clowns in a circus car), bring the downfall of the city.
Just when you think someone will die, or should, the tale
takes a twist and runs on a different tangent. Eventually, we
make our way to a showdown between Hector and Achilles, which
is one of the best hand-to-hand sword-fights in recent memory.
Achilles is graceful and courageous; Hector is righteous and
athletic. I won’t spoil the
My one disappointment with Troy is the lack of character in the female roles. Except for Briseis (Prince Hector’s cousin), who is a spitfire partner for Achilles, the women of Troy and Sparta are given little to say or do.
In its attempt at squeezing a lot of action and dialogue into a feature film, Troy should be applauded. But it leaves you breathless just the same. Ruthless Achilles and gallant Hector save the film from being a bloody mess.
Troy (3 Stars)
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Starring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Peter O’Toole, Diane Kruger, Rose Byrne, Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson
(Rated R, 165 min.)