Warner Brothers, May 2004
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
King Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson) of Sparta throws a banquet to celebrate the new peace treaty between Sparta and Troy. King Priam of Troy (Peter O'Toole) has sent his two sons Prince Hector (Eric Bana) and Paris (Orlando Bloom) as his emissaries to negotiate the treaty. At the celebration Paris slips away to the bedchamber of Helen (Diane Kruger), the Queen of Sparta. Helen is deeply unhappy with King Menelaus, a husband twice her age, and she falls in love with Paris. Paris spirits her away from Sparta aboard their vessel without Hector's knowledge. His actions destroy the newly signed treaty and bring war to the gates of Troy.
King Menelaus turns to his brother Agamemnon (Brian Cox) and his allies, to wage war on Troy for the betrayal and insult they have caused him. Agamemnon cares little for Menelaus' marital troubles, but seizes the opportunity to gain control of the Aegean Sea by raiding the wealthy city of Troy. Agamemnon summons his mightiest warrior, the legendary Achilles (Brad Pitt). His name strikes fear and terror in the hearts of all who face him, but Achilles doesn't trust Agamemnon. Odysseus (Sean Bean), King of Ithaca, joins in the battlegroup and persuades Achilles to fight for Agamemnon in spite of his distrust.
Tired of war and contemptuous of Agamemnon, Achilles struggles with disillusionment and is cynical about the glories of battle. Achilles is rumored to be the son of a goddess, and his mother Thetis (Julie Christie) encourages him to seek glory on the battlefield..."your name will be remembered for a thousand years." He fights for no one but himself, yet soon his pride and arrogance lure him into the fray. On the first assault of Troy, Achilles' warriors, the Myrmidons, sack the Temple of Apollo outside the gates of the city and take captive a beautiful young priestess, Briseis (Rose Byrne). Unknown to Achilles, Briseis is the cousin of Prince Hector. Confined to Achilles' tent, she becomes his captive and a spoil of war for his pleasure.
The City of Troy is a citadel whose walls have never been breached, yet Prince Hector and Prince Paris come outside the gates to meet their enemies face to face. Paris offers to settle the dispute over Helen in a sword battle with King Menelaus. But Paris is outmatched and eventually cowers before his opponent until Hector steps forward and kills Menelaus. Paris' cowardly actions force the Trojan warriors into all-out war. However, the walls of Troy remain unbreached, threatening the success of the invaders' efforts. It is Odysseus who conceives the ruse of the Trojan Horse that brings the eventual downfall of Troy.
Is the story of Troy myth or history? In either case, TROY is a powerful depiction of one of our oldest known pieces of literature. The screenplay, written by David Benioff, creates a very human face of the characters in this epic tale. The emotional drama of Prince Paris and Helen's love story and the legendary warrior Achilles is engaging. Their flaws of character, their arrogance, and their struggle for happiness will draw filmgoers into the two and a half hour action drama.
TROY was inspired by the poem THE ILIAD, written by Homer, but the story of the Trojan Horse was never mentioned in THE ILIAD. That story came through Virgil, commissioned by Caesar Augustus to write about the tale of the sacking of Troy, titled THE AENEID.
With a powerful ensemble cast, TROY features many fine performances. Seven time Academy Award winner Peter O'Toole was mesmerizing onscreen. The most moving scene of the film was when King Priam sneaks behind enemy lines and slips into Achilles' tent to beg for the return of the body of his son for burial. They portray the meeting of two very powerful men in the most human and emotional of situations.
Another powerful performance was given by Rose Bryne as Briseis, the young virgin acolyte to Apollo, who is forcibly seduced and eventually falls in love with Achilles, her captor. Her conflict is movingly portrayed.
Eric Bana, in the role of Prince Hector, often threatened to eclipse Brad Pitt. Almost, but not quite. Pitt's commanding performance as the proud and arrogant Achilles is incredible. His onscreen presence is powerful and his leaping sword and spear attacks are impressive. But it was the vulnerable and conflicted side of Achilles that made this character and Pitt's performance so fascinating.
My only complaint about the film is the role of the women in this drama are not strong enough. Helen, the beautiful woman who inspired the war, had a few teary scenes, but even Briseis had a meatier role than Helen. The male characters carry the drama and the glory in this film. The women appear more as window dressing and do a lot of crying.
Viewers who loved GLADIATOR and BRAVEHEART will look forward to adding TROY to their video collections, but I highly recommend viewing the theater screen version first. The sweeping battle scenes and beautiful setting make it worth the price of a ticket. Rated R for violence and some nudity and sexuality.
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