Despite its great subject "Troy" is far from a great film. Though spectacularly average it most certainly is. Based on Homer's epic poem "The Iliad," screenwriter David Benioff ("The 25th Hour") subverts much of the drama found in the original story to open up the film's appeal to a wider audience. "Troy" is failed by Benioff because he was hired to adapt one of the greatest stories ever told into a one-size-fits-all happy meal. In the ultimate battle between art and commerce where peace comes at a price, "Troy" pays dearly. As the plodding dialogues pile on it wants to be many things: a drama, a romance, an action-adventure and, most importantly, a Greek tradegy. Because complex issues of immortality, love, politics and even religion are cut, dried and served around the fancy dressing of bombastic score (more on that later) much of the emotional resonance that careful prudence could have provided is lost. In the end neither the realistic battle scenes nor the fine acting compensates. In the end none of us will find any of the broad themes tackled in the film to our complete satisfiscation.
When Paris (Orlando Bloom), the young Prince of Troy, secretly takes his lover Helen (Diane Kruger), wife of Menelaus of Sparta (Brendan Glesson), back home with him all hell breaks loose. Menelaus asks his power-mongering brother Agamemmenon (Brian Cox) to order a thousands ships and the tens of thousand of men in it to battle with Troy. At the epicenter of this conflict is Achilles (Brad Pitt), the greatest warrior of all time who despises Agamemmenon but desires personal glory above all, and Hector (Eric Bana), loving brother to Paris and the only man who stands between Troy's eminent defeat.
Brad Pitt trained for months to perfect his body to resemble our mental image of the Achilles in "The Illiad." He succeeds. But Pitt, who was exceptional in "The 12 Monkeys" and "The Fight Club," falters in his protrayal of Achilles who is here painted as a cold, menacing killer at war with himself (the real Achilles was never conflicted about himself). Eric Bana's Hector, on the other hand, is a true hero, a good man morally obligated to obey his father (Peter O' Toole); he is a loyal brother, an unflinching patriot. Bana plays him with such restraint and nuance that his performance is easily the best thing in "Troy." One of the most effective sequences in the film is the climatic fight between Achilles and Hector. It's a brutal fight where one man will die. We don't root for Achilles because, unlike Hector, his perceived morality has been called into question. And considering Pitt's character is the focus of the story, our hostility towards him doesn't bear well for the film.
A fatal miscalculation is James Horner's score; it really hurts the film. His music is simply too loud and invades every scene, every dialogue. Horner was an eleventh-hour replacement for composer Gabriel Yared ("The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Cold Mountain"). Apparently a month-and-a-half before "Troy's" worldwide release the studio got cold feet after Yared's unfinished background music didn't exactly score with the test audience. I have had the pleasure of listening to Yared's original score to "Troy" and allow me to say that it is classical yet modern, epic but subtle and emotional. A fine effort. Yared who had worked for over a year on this project in close partnership with director Wolfgang Petersen was fired without notice or a chance to rework his score. What a shame! "Troy" preaches courage and honour while its makers refuse to take their own advice. - Adnan Khan