Film & DVD Review: Troy

Troy DVD cover

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162 Minutes
Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

Troy Synopsis:

In 1193 B.C., Prince Paris (Bloom) of Troy stole the beautiful Greek woman, Helen, away from her husband, Menelaus, the king of Sparta, setting the two nations at war with each other, as the Greeks began a bloody siege of Troy using their entire armada, led by Achilles (Pitt), that (according to Homer) lasted over a decade… (Bana plays Hector, the leader of the Trojan forces; Byrne plays Briseis, a Trojan slave and cousin of Hector and Paris who is given to Achilles as a gift.)

Troy is an epic with a nod towards David Lean. It’s a complex story and it must have been tempting for Wolfgang Petersen to limit the time given to the development of so many strong characters. This would have been a pity as if he had we wouldn’t have got the great ensemble performance from the cast. The cast is a very strong one. Alongside Pitt and Bloom are Eric Bana (as Paris’ brother Hector), Peter O’Toole (as King Priam of Troy) and Sean Bean (as Odysseus). Joining them is the less well known German actress Diane Kruger, who beat off Claire Forlani for the coveted role of Helen.

Some brave decisions were made on casting. Eric Bana played The Hulk which was panned. Eric has defended the film. He said it was “stupid” to describe The Hulk as a failure because it only earned $222 million at the box office. “I couldn’t be more proud of that film,” he said. “I think in time it will go down as one of the most different films in that genre.” (The Herald Sun Monday, September 22, 2003). Aside from The Hulk I had only seen him in a small role in Black Hawk Down.

The casting of Helen has also been debated on bulletin boards – is Diane Kruger beautiful enough, was Helen a blond? Well as the Persians said ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ but I thought Diane Kruger was stunning and alluring. Diane is married to French actor Guillaume Canet who starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach. She studied with the Royal Ballet in London before an injury wrecked her career. Diane’s film credits include Mon Idole, directed by husband Guillaume. She also played a call girl in For Or Against and features in Luc Besson’s latest project Michel Vaillant. Diane, whose full second name is Heidkrueger, first made her name as a model for top designers Christian Dior, Chanel and Armani and has appeared on the cover of many magazines. Director Wolfgang Petersen said: “Diane is not only a stunning beauty but a gifted actress with tremendous emotional depth and presence.”

The film-makers were right to allow up-and-coming actors and actresses their chance to shine, They have risen to the challenge and delivered memorable and convincing performances. It was also great to see Peter O’Toole deliver a powerful performance and the inclusion of Julie Christie as the mother of Achilles. Peter O’Toole deserves special mention for one of the most moving scenes when he begs Achilles for the body of his son Hector.

Screenwriter David Benioff didn’t have an easy task making the myth of the Trojan war and Homer’s The Iliad accessible to modern audiences. “(I’ve tried) to be really faithful but maybe one line of dialogue is direct from the source,” he said in an interview earlier in 2003. “In Homer the characters talk to each other in long speeches; Achilles will be mad and will give his three-page monologue. It’s incredible but you don’t necessarily want to sit there in a theatre watching him deliver it.”

The screenwriter exercises artistic license with the story as told by Homer. Odysseus thinks of the idea for the wooden horse but Achilles remains alive through this development (in Homer’s version he has already been killed by Paris). The plot is telescoped significantly. According to Homer the war lasts some 10 years but in the film appears to last no more than a few weeks at most. Benioff has modified the tale in such a way that it will capture and hold the interest of the modern audience. Troy communicates the subtlety and Truth of The Iliad well.

Wolfgang is very deft in bringing out the different characters and allowing each their moments. I asked Wolfgang why he had started the movie with Paris and Helen already together at a London Press Conference on May 7, 2004. This was very different from the build-up of the relationship in the 1955 Helen of Troy starring Rossana Podesta and Cedric Hardwicke. He replied that he didn’t want viewers to just think of Troy as a love story between Helen and Paris. For that reason he introduced the tensions between Agamemnon and Achiles early on. He wanted a “kaleidoscope” effect. He has no reverence for authority and despises not only Agamemnon but most other people he comes in contact with. Two exceptions seem to be his young friend Patroclus and the warrior king Odysseus — for whom he has a grudging respect. Achilles has no interest in fighting Agamemnon’s wars for him but he is seduced by Odysseus, with his intimations of the glory and renown to be gained on the battlefield and persuaded to join the expedition against Troy.

The fight and battle scenes are great. The individual fight scene between Achilles and Hector is enthralling. “It was really, pleasantly intense,” Bana says. “I had a very, very long preparation period for the film physically, and they developed a unique fighting style that they wanted Brad and me to have that was different to each other.”

“What’s really cool about it is that there are no special effects. It’s just two guys who have trained for a really long period of time trying to do everything themselves. That makes it a very human fight.” (Detroit Free Press, May 9, 2004).

This film is a spectacle, a great action movie and (I have no doubt) will be a summer blockbuster. The $140 million budget looks like money well spent. It is set to be the biggest film of 2004. Yet it has a real content about what motivates people and how they react when faced with a whole range of human emotions. We get to understand Achilles bit by bit as he searches for fame and thereby a form of immortality. We see his dark side and understand why men fear him. Hector (played by Eric Bana) is, for me, the most fascinating character in The Iliad – a great warrior who understood that war brought only misery. He is a noble whose credo is to honour the Gods and love his country and woman. When Hector speaks of the tragedy and waste of war I couldn’t help but think of Iraq and the widows who would be left alone on all sides of the conflict. Agamemnon is portrayed as a man interested only in power and the desire to subordinate others to his will. He is prepared to sacrifice both principle and people to get what he wants. The main difference between him and modern politicians is that he is remarkably candid about it! Maybe all this just shows that great art is always ‘contemporary’.

CAST

Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen

Starring

  • Julian Glover
  • Peter O’Toole
  • Brian Cox
  • Julie Christie
  • Brad Pitt
  • Rose Byrne
  • Sean Bean
  • Eric Bana
  • Orlando Bloom
  • Saffron Burrows
  • Tyler Mane
  • Diane Kruger
  • Brendon GleesonOur images show Achilles played by Brad Pitt and Paris played by Orlando Bloom. Copyright 2004, Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc.

    For further information visit the Official Troy Website.

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