A caveat for those of you who take their history lessons from the movies; Troy is inaccurate and doesn't follow the epic poem 'Iliad' entirely. But that isn't its biggest imperfection. That dishonor belongs to the decision of placing its faith on the star studded cast of Hollywood superstars, led by a stilted and constipated Brad Pitt.
The central story remains much the same as dictated by legend and documented by Homer. While on a peace mission to Greece, Paris (Orlando Bloom), prince of Troy, falls in love with and eventually sneaks away the King's wife, Helen (Diane Kruger), much to the dismay of his elder brother Hector (Eric Bana). Repercussions eventually arrive in the form of the Greek army invading the shores of Troy, led by Agamemnon (Brian Cox), apparently avenging his brother Menelaus' (Brendan Gleeson) loss of a wife, but having a grand scheme of domination all his own. He also despises yet requires the presence of rebel soldier Achilles (Pitt), who himself seeks fame and glory above all else.
As a war movie, 'Troy' offers lazy aerial shots of battles that have become all too common to viewers familiar with a certain trilogy from the last few years. Director Wolfgang Peterson is far more successful at placing his leads in one-on-one combats that show his deft usage of close camera work to provide raw scenes of carnage and brutality. Especially effective are two key battles that pit Paris against Menelaus and then later towards the climax, Achilles against Hector. The latter vibrates with energy and cackle absent in any of the other bigger set pieces.
As the pivotal character, Achilles' is overflowing with pride and arrogance that eventually spills and gives way to a dull and vexed figure who is difficult to like because Pitt's presence feels too contemporary. Unlike the then relatively unknown Russell Crowe in 'Gladiator', Pitt's star appearance hurts the film achieve a sense of the ancient that it strives for. Bana as Hector fares better, not only because his cause carries more resonance, but also because he successfully evokes the proper balance of heroism and righteousness. The cowardice of Paris, as played by Bloom, is here turned into a class act. For the little duration that he is on screen, Peter O'Toole as King Priam of Troy brings a dignified grace that only comes with age coupled with ability. A scene where he sneaks into Achilles' tent and pleads for the body of his son is powerful and shows a marked contrast between the capacities of the two.
The dialogue is clunky and attempts at making the story seem political, fraternal and confrontational all at the same time. The end is also too tidy and polished in setting the comeuppance of all the major players while James Horner's trumpet and vocal heavy score is a misfire and does little justice to the visuals. In the end Troy delivers less than it promises because it promises too much. And although there may be much to admire about Troy there is little to like about the central figure of Achilles. - Faizan Rashid