Like most children I heard bits and pieces of the story of Troy; of Helen whose beauty launched a thousand ships; of Achilles and his unprotected heal; of Hector Prince and hero of Troy
But also like most I am not fully conversant in the real tale as laid out in Homers The Iliad. This despite the fact that I have the tome and its companion The Odyssey resting peacefully in my personal library.
It is speculated that Troy, which lay on the west coast of Turkey, was an actual city; I have even visited the site of the supposed ruins. So when I first heard that story of the razing of Troy was coming the silver screen, I marked it on calendar.
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot 1982, Enemy Mine 1985, In The Line of Fire 1993, Air Force One 1997, The Perfect Storm 2000), this rendition of the face that launched a thousand ships, opens with the Greek King Agamemnon (Brian Cox, Rob Roy 1995, Affair of the Necklace 2001, The Ring 2002) putting the finishing touches on his burgeoning expansive empire, with the more then able assistance of the valiant warrior who cannot die, Achilles (Brad Pitt, A River Runs Through It 1992, Legends of the Fall 1994, Fight Club 1999, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas 2003).
However, Achilles holds no love or allegiance to the George W. Bush like Agamemnon, or any king for that matter, he fights only for the glory and the promiseand hopethat he will be remembered as the greatest warrior of all time. But Achilles is deeper then just a mere warrior, he thinks, he pontificates, he agonizes over the death and havoc he causes at anothers behest. Agamemnon bristles at Achilles' continued and open disrespect, but soon has other battles to fight. Agamemnon's brother, Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson, Braveheart - 1995, Mission Impossible 2 2000, Gangs of New York 2002, Cold Mountain 2003), King of Sparta, has had his considerable pride wounded when his beautiful wife, Helen (Diane Kruger, Wicker Park 2004), swayed by the love of the Trojan prince, Paris (Orlando Bloom, Blackhawk Down 2001, The Lord of the Ring I, II, & III 2001-2003) is stolen away to the great city of Troy across the Aegean Sea. Trouble is Sparta and Troy have just joined in an alliance of peace and cooperation.
The scandalous and dishonorable act creates a disastrous chain reactionloosing the cuckolded Menelaus' need for retribution, Agamemnon's insatiable desire to take Troy as his own, and Achilles' pursuit of the ultimate glory. But Troy 's impassable walls are ferociously protected by the legendary Trojan warriors, led by the powerful and honorable Prince Hector (Eric Bana Blackhawk Down 2001, The Hulk -2003). As the battle is joined on shores of Troy, Briseis (Rose Byrne, Star Wars: Episode II 2002, Wicker Park 2004), cousin to Hector and Paris, and nice of Priam (Peter OToole, Lawrence of Arabia 1962, Man of La Mancha 1972, Masada 1984, Joan of Arc 1999), King of Troy, is captured by the Greeks and becomes a pawn in the game of wills between Agamemnon and Achilles, eventually falling in love with the later, and he with her.
I have heard from several quarters that Warner Brothers theatric release of Troy does no justice the famed poem by Homer. And after doing some research, including reading at least some passages from the The Iliad, I have found that the movie takes considerable artistic license with Homers epic poem. Depending on your perspective, and whether or not you have read The Iliad one can conclude that in making the movie, certain decisions were made that had dramatic and distressing consequences on the overall story.
For instance, the gods and goddesses of Greek Mythology who played a central role in the conflict between Greece and Troy were banished from the battlefield. Although their names are invokedquite often I might addtheir sway was not felt on the lives of Greeks and Trojans. This is a major departure from the Homer storyline. Without the guiding hand of Apollo, God of Prophecy, upon the arm of Paris, Achilles should have survived and might well have lived long enough to spring from the Trojan Horse, and win the day for Greece; without the hand of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty, Paris should have died, smote by the hand of Menelaus.
One could speculate that it was only because of the intervention of the Greek Gods that the Trojan War lasted ten years in The Iliad rather then the two weeks of Warner Brothers/Wolfgang Petersens godless rendition. I suppose for the sake of theatrical expediency and enjoyment I can get overlook the time differences, the presence of Achilles in the Trojan Horse, and the killing by Hector of Menelaus and Ajax, but the omission of the gods from the telling fundamentally alters the story for the worse. It removes the mystical aspect that makes The Iliad a tome that most consider one of the definitive works on man.
But hey, Hollywood is in the business of entertainment, not documentaries, for those I tune into PBS. As a marker for entertainment, Troy delivers. The battle scenes are epic without a hint of CGI in the mix to disturb the human drama unfolding on the screen. But be forewarned, this movie is violent, and how could it not be given the realistic depiction of battle some 3200 years ago when armies came together and slugged it out toe-to-toe, spear-to-spear, sword to bloody sword.
Many critics found fault with Brad Pitts performance, but heaped solid praise on Eric Bana. I found no fault with Pitts performance; he played the part of Achilles with intensity and deft skill. Homers Achilles was fiercely independent, fearless, arrogant, cocky, self-assured, but with a touch of humility and dare I say compassion born of honor. Pitts performance mirrored that personification and his dance-like fighting methods, impulsiveness, defiance of Agamemnon, and love of Briseis all seem in line with the Achilles Homer penned.
In the final analysis, Troy the movie is spectacular as told by Hollywood. And while the story does not remain true to what Homer penned some 3,000 years ago, much less as it really happened, it does offer plenty of engaging, old-fashioned action, buttressed with skillful acting, and skillfully interleaved special effects.
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age
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