Reviewer: Charity Bishop
When Homer wrote the classic story of forbidden love and great folly, he never envisioned it would become a classic. Comprised of a fantastic cast and magnificent sets, Troy tries very hard to cover up its flaws. Its an interesting story but fails on many levels. It doesn't have the strong storyline and moral foundation of The Patriot. It doesn't have the driving passion of Gladiator. What Troy turns out to be is a humble attempt at romance without great conviction in a tale of characters we have trouble completely rooting for. They are all flawed and human, but not remarkable. By the end were not sorry to have seen it, just sorry that it wasn't better.
King Agamemnon has been moving his armies throughout the empire, conquering one land after another. The only freestanding province remaining is Troy, seat of the high king Priam (Peter O'Toole), whose two sons have been sent to decree peacetime. Working for Sparta is a brutal warrior named Achilles (Brad Pitt), a soul born to kill men. He fights not for the empire but out of desire for glory. His mother (a briefly seen Julie Christie) acknowledges his wish for notoriety but warns him it will bring his death, foreseeing inevitable conflict on the battlefield. While in Sparta, Paris (Orlando Bloom), younger Prince of Troy, falls in love with the kings beautiful wife Helen (Diane Kruger). They conduct a clandestine affair in which both are convinced they have found true love. Paris is due to return to his homeland and begs Helen to accompany him.
When Menelaus learns his wife has fled with Paris, he desires to declare war and gain the return of his wife so he can kill her with my own two hands. Agamemnon has been awaiting just such an opportunity, an excuse to attack the nation of Troy and bring it to its knees. Paris older brother Hector (Eric Bana) warns Paris against the folly of bringing home another mans wife, but has not the heart to send him to his death. Paris has promised, if Helen is returned to her husband, to follow her there, even if it means his certain execution. When they return to Troy, their father welcomes them with open arms, also extending his protection to his son's lover. When the Spartans arrive and Priam refuses to sacrifice Helen, they attack the beach of Troy. Inevitably it will bring others to war on their fair shores, including Odysseus (Sean Bean) and Achilles, who finds forbidden love in the form of the kings niece Briseis (Rose Byrne).
While the story begins solidly, it loses momentum midway through. The battles have no excitement because neither army battles for anything worth fighting for. Paris wants to keep Helen at no great cost to himself. He has noble intentions of saving Troy but fails when it counts and shows cowardice. The story revolves around Helen but she's barely given any screen time. Achilles is supposed to be likable but comes across as more of an arrogant, bloodthirsty jerk. Hector's wife (Saffron Burrows) has the most empathetic role but not enough character development. The two noblest of characters are killed for sport. These men died for nothing. There was no cause for them to battle for, nothing but lust, pride, and greed. A king took an army to war because he wanted to rule the earth. Another fought for revenge over a common, simple mistake. None of it was honest heroism, just macho displays of vengeance.
Despite this the film is very engaging and many of the characters are enjoyable to watch. Hector and his beautiful wife, Paris' internal struggles with cowardice, the grief of his father, even Achilles unusual character alterations. In one scene he's a warring madman, in another he's weeping for a fallen enemy. He says it is senseless to go to war and believes loss of life is terrible but deep down feeds his bloodlust. Its an impossible conflict of interest, an attempt to humanize a character you simply cannot root for. He does show great kindness to Briseis (even though he eventually seduces her) by allowing her to live, offering her freedom, and fighting for her protection on numerous occasions from Spartans. This aspect makes him much more likable, although when he ties the body of a fallen foe behind his chariot and races it through the encampment, some of our liking for him fades.
Because of this, as well as some lengthy pacing issues and an abominable soundtrack (all except for the closing song by Josh Groban) Troy is not very memorable. There are few remarkable aspects. The costuming is very rich and the acting is good. The problem then becomes an issue of which side to root for. The movie tries so hard to be fair to both sides that they alienate the audience. If the story were only about Helen and Paris, we could root for them. Instead were given glimpses into not only their romance, but Achilles relationship with his impressionable young cousin, his romance with Briseis, Priam's concerns for Troy, Homer and his wife, and the King of Spartans plans to rule the world. Characters also die out rapidly; some of the most beloved heroes fall beneath the blade, as well as the bad guys. It's worth seeing once if you're a fan of the cast, but not a classic, and certainly has nothing to teach other than that mankind can be utterly cruel and foolish. That's the true tragedy of Troy.
Many scenes contain implied and/or partial nudity. Men are shown naked from the hips up. Brad Pitt's naked backside gets a lot of screen time. Our introduction to him is lying in the arms of two apparently nude women. Helen removes her top in front of Paris and they kiss; the camera only shows her shoulders. We briefly see her nude backside as she moves from a reclining position. Briseis pulls a knife on a sleeping Achilles; he then flips her down onto the cot and pulls up her tunic (we see most of her bare side) before they kiss and move around on the pillows. A man becomes abusive with Briseis and threatens to harm her, but she is saved. There is a lot of dialogue about adultery, making love, and harming women.
One use of d*mn, whore, and a b*tch.
The battles are brutal with lots of hand-to-hand combat, characters being impaled, arrows shooting down out of the skies, and a few graphic slashes with the blade. There is some blood. One mans throat is slit; another has a sword jabbed through his arm; a woman stabs a man in the neck with gruesome results. Balls of fire roll down a hill, engulfing an encampment in flames. Soldiers burst out of a wooden horse and stab sleeping guards. In one scene two of our conflicting heroes attack one another and one is brutally killed by the other for no purpose other than revenge.
Ancient Roman religious practices receive a lot of screen time; many conversations about the gods and being blessed and/or cursed by them. Achilles breaks the head off a golden statue of Apollo outside Troy and murders priests. Priests advise King Priam on battle strategy based on signs from the gods, which ultimately leads to the fall of Troy. Briseis dedicates herself to the temple early on, assuming the robes of a virgin until Achilles seduces her.