| When Gladiator (2000) won the Academy Award for best picture a few years ago, I was first, stunned that it had beaten superior films such as Traffic (2000) or the non-nominated Requiem for a Dream (2000), but then remember being afraid for the message it would send to the industry. Sure enough, the message it sent is coming to pass on movie screens this year. Big, historical epics are back, and though Troy is marginally better than Gladiator (2000) there are elements of the film that sent me screaming for cover. Later this year we will have Oliver Stone’s Alexander, the first of two film versions of Alexander the Great, with a rumoured movie about Cleopatra in early talks featuring Angelina Jolie. This is what the success of a once popular genre reborn can breed. |
Wolfgang Peterson’s massive Troy will no doubt leave more than a few viewers in awe with the sheer scope and size of the picture, and for hard core history buffs, there will be issues. One thing to remember with the film is that no one connected with the picture has stated they are making a historical document, but rather an entertainment based on the events surrounding some of the goings on in Troy. The film is not adapted from Homer’s The Iliad, but rather inspired by it, which is a fancy way of saying the filmmakers used what they wanted and discarded what was of no use to them.
Understand first and foremost Troy is a summer blockbuster which means first and foremost it is an entertainment picture.
Set in ancient Greece, the film explores the huge problems which arise when two of history’s most famous lovers, Paris (Orlando Bloom) and Helen (Diane Kruger) begin a romance that will ignite a war and threaten to destroy a civilization. When Paris essentially steals Helen away from her husband King Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson) it is an insult that cannot be accepted. Menelaus’ brother Agamemnon (Brian Cox) believes that an insult to his brother is an insult to their family and begins to unite the tribes of Greece to bring Helen back to her husband.
His quest to bring honour to his family might be honourable if it were not governed by greed. In order to bring Helen back he must conquer Troy, and he needs to conquer Troy to seize control of the Aegean, thus expanding his already massive empire.
Troy, under the leadership of King Priam (Peter O’Toole) is a massive walled city defended by Hector (Eric Bana), a city that no army has been able to enter.
The key to either victory or defeat is Achilles (Brad Pitt) a rebellious warrior considered to be the greatest soldier alive. Achilles is loyal to no one except his own massive ego, and dedicates himself to further expanding his own legend thereby becoming immortal.
With Achilles leading the way, one thousand Greek warships land on the Troy shore, and not even the capable Hector can keep the Greeks from taking the beach and moving closer to the city they so desire.
When Achilles and the King have a following out, Achilles refuses to raise his sword in battle and the Trojans prove to be a formidable foe.
Will the war result in the destruction of a society?
Troy is often breathtaking to watch, particularly the massive battle sequences which rival Saving Private Ryan (1998) in terms of realism. Sword play must have been harsh and violent, and Peterson spares nothing in showing that vicious realism. Watching as massive armies arm themselves with ancient weaponry that was used to hack and mutilate as much as to kill, audiences will see first hand the brutality of war in an ancient arena.
I am of the mind Brad Pitt is an exciting actor to watch on screen when he is challenged by the right role. He was quite extraordinary in Fight Club (1999), richly deserving an Oscar nomination for his performance, and more than held the screen with Morgan Freeman no less in Seven (1995). Pitt has the ability to slip into character easily, and seems only challenged by accents. He was dreadful in Sven Years inTibet (1997) and The Devil’s Own (1997), as the accent got in the way of his performance. However, in strong roles with strong directors he has the ability to be among the finest actors out there. I quite liked his early work in Thelma and Louise (1991) and Legends of the Fall (1994), and greatly admired his Oscar nominated turn in Twelve Monkeys (1995). Pitt has the disadvantage of being good looking, a disadvantage only when it comes to film reviewers who are loath to accept pretty boys as good actors. Pitt however has played down his looks in almost all of his strong performance in the same manner of Johnny Depp. In Troy, his looks are so much a part of the performance; I was stunned with what he did with his body. Already a well built man, Pitt is buff and deeply tanned in this film, looking every bit like the young God WHICH Achilles imagined himself to be. While he captures the arrogance and lust for war of the character, there is not much else he brings to the part.
Orlando Bloom, so fine as Legolas in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2002-2003) is embarrassing here as Paris, the cowardly and wimpy young man everyone goes to war for. It is a fey performance that I never understood, not believing for a moment Helen would fall n love with this man, nor would a nation decide to fight for him. Bloom is the real deal as he proved in that massive trilogy and again in The Pirates of theCaribbean (2003), but here he is either woefully miscast, or simply ignorant of how to play this part. It is a horrible performance on every level.
Eric Bana must be thanking God this is not 2003 and he is again reading the bad reviews for The Hulk (2003) in which he played the scientist who morphs into what was an obvious computer creation. He is fine as Hector, giving an interesting and believable performance, but it is a performance virtually any young actor could give. There is nothing here that announces Bana as a major new talent, which after Black Hawk Down (2002) is exactly what folks were saying.
The rest of the cast are in interesting mix of character actors, Brendan Gleeson and veteran actors, Peter O’Toole and no one embarrasses themselves on the level of Bloom. I would sit through anything O’Toole is in including the recently released DVD Man ofLa Mancha(1972) and have always enjoyed the work of Gleeson who I thought deserved an Oscar nomination for his performance as Martin Cahill in The General (1998).
Would Helen be the cause of a war? Does Diane Kruger have the presence to suggest such a happening? She is lovely to look at, but never once did I believe nations would go to war for this woman. There is simply a lack of presence in her performance. When she is absent from the screen I did not think of her, and admittedly have not once thought about her until sitting down to write this review.
Peterson’s film is vastly entertaining, but at times plays a tad campy, particularly when it comes to Orland Bloom. In years to come, his performance will be discussed as among the worst in a major film.Troy should break the bank this first week, and may get a strong second week, but I do not think it will be the smash success Warner Brothers is hoping for. As an entertainment, most of the time is was fine, but much of that is based on enjoying watching the scope and size of this film. As a historical document, it fails miserably, and as a film it falls somewhere in between.