Hollywood has attempted this story before. The 1955 feature, Helen of Troy, covered the main plot of Homer’s ‘The Illiad’ while including some other elements of Greek Mythology such as the trojan horse, which actually appeared in a separate story, ‘The Odyssey’. Going by what seems to be a rule of thumb in Hollywood, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Narrative liberties have been taken to try to force the story into the traditional blockbuster mould. Comparisons to Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ have been bandied about, perhaps in an effort to maximise interest (and profit), but unfortunately ‘Troy’ doesn’t even come close to matching that films’ sophistication and beauty.
Director Wolfgang Petersen first won recognition for his work when the classic World War II submarine thriller Das Boot was completed in 1981. Since then his output has included Air Force One, Outbreak and The Perfect Storm. With these films, Petersen had managed to command respectable, if not great, performances from his leading men; the likes of Dustin Hoffman, George Clooney and Harrison Ford. Petersen’s first choice for Achilles, “the greatest warrior the world has ever seen”, was Brad Pitt. Perhaps not surprisingly, his performance is respectable, not great.
The real standout here is former stand up comic, Eric Bana, as Trojan prince Hector. His performance in ‘Chopper’ as Australian criminal Mark Brandon Read and his rendering of Bruce Banner in ‘Hulk’, convinced Peterson of his ability to bring both grit and nobility to the role. Orlando Bloom, of Lord of the Rings fame, has perhaps the most difficult role as Prince Paris of Troy. A lover, certainly not a fighter, Paris’ affair with Helen which plunges the Greeks and Trojans into war seems like too great a challenge for the young actor. After a dire performance in ‘Pirates of the Carribean’, Bloom overacts almost every expression and his dialogue seems forced and ultimately laughable.
If you can manage to ignore the sometimes atrocious dialogue, blatant posing from Pitt and Bloom and the boring first hour, the movie certainly picks up for act three. Undeniably entertaining, this is where you begin to wonder, had the movie endured a more rigorous editing process, would we be looking at a far greater movie? As it is, Troy is a bloated epic with thinly drawn characters whose underlying motivations of glory, greed, and revenge seem all too familiar and remarkably unexciting.
3 out of 5