Troy (**½)

Posted on May 1st, 2004 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

Troy tells the story of the siege of Troy by the Greeks, sparked by the romantic defection of Helen, wife of the king’s brother. I hope I didn’t just give too much of the plot away, but since the story has been around for thousands of years I won’t feel bad if this is the first time you’ve heard it (but you should…what do they teach in schools nowadays, anyway??). Although the story on which it is based is an incredible epic, this film version is light on substance and depth, but deep on action and melodrama. It’s not a bad film, but not really great, either, and when a film strives to tell a great story, but is not itself great, the effort rings hollow and leaves the viewer unfulfilled.

Er, unless the viewer has come to see the un-CGI-enhanced, god-like display of Brad Pitt’s new physical form. Speaking from a staunch record of unblemished heterosexuality, I still have to say…wow. The combination of Pitt’s looks, physique, and smoldering charisma make him very believable as Achilles, the greatest warrior of his day. I was heartened to hear that Mr. Pitt gave up smoking in order to be able to undertake the grueling training that was necessary for his transformation, and then equally disappointed to hear that he had taken that nasty habit back up. I will never understand smoking.

Anyway, that’s not why you called. The film contains some very good performances. As mentioned above, Brad Pitt easily embodies the role of the fearless, undefeatable mercenary Achilles. I was equally impressed with Eric Bana as Hector, one of the princes of Troy, who is also a great warrior, but also a great leader and a great (and therefore tragic) man. Brian Cox portrays Agamemnon, the king of Greece, with ferocious kingliness and believable world-domination abilities. Peter O’Toole plays Priam, the fading but still great king of Troy. Orlando Bloom sort of fades into the background as Hector’s weaker brother Paris, giving a lackluster, translucent performance (I don’t know what that means, but it sounds right).

There are also a couple of chicks in the movie, but they seem simply to be props for imperilment and/or lust, and none of the female characters have much to do, unfortunately.

The majority of the film has to do with the siege of Troy, and includes many battle scenes. While grand in scale these scenes aren’t very moving, as it is apparent that 90% of the actors, horses, boats, and chariots in each scene are CGI, which immediately takes me out of the flow of the film and into a sort of dispassionate observer role. I would have preferred the combination of a couple of hundred extras and the skill of the director to make them feel like much more, rather than this overblown pseudo-real-cartoon-ish display. The actual face-to-face confrontations are quite compelling, with everybody obeying the laws of physics (thank ye Gods) and none of the Greeks or Trojans anachronistically whipping out any kung-fu moves on anybody (thank ye Gods yet again).

All in all, Troy is an enjoyable film, but it is a trifle, and manages to tell a great and timeless tale in an unengaging and uninvolving manner. At nearly three hours you get your money’s worth, but there are some spots where things just seem to drag for no discernable reason.

For those of you interested in how the story turns out, at the end Bedevere, Launcelot, and Galahad leap out of a giant, wooden rabbit and take the French castle by surprise…

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