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TROY – Ancient battle epic given star-studded treatment

Starring: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom and Peter O’Toole
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Rated: M15+

TROY is going to keep historians of the ancient world busy for months arguing over its fidelity, or lack of it, to Homer’s The Iliad.

Whatever its interpretive shortcomings, and there are many, it might do for Homer what recent film adaptations have done for Shakespeare and Tolkien.

At best, it’s going to be a primer for fans of the film to read the original work, and a useful teaching tool in regard to the general politics and geography of the world 3200 years ago.

But these are not the reasons that Warner Brothers spent more than US $200 million making this epic. It’s meant to be a money-making machine, and with Brad Pitt as the star, it might just do that as well.

Troy makes itself as user-friendly as possible by focusing on how Paris of Troy (Orlando Bloom) falls in love with Helen, Queen of Sparta (Diane Kruger).

She absconds from Sparta back to Troy in Paris’s boat. Helen’s husband Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson) is less than impressed, and seeks his brother King Agamemnon’s (Brian Cox) help in laying siege to Troy.

Agamemnon has been spoiling for a chance to invade for years, so he leads his army to capture Helen and increase his empire.

The best fighter in Agamemnon’s army is Achilles (Brad Pitt). He despises the king but admires his own ability in battle.

It is only after Achilles’ cousin is killed, and he falls in love with the royal Trojan priestess Briseis (Australian actress Rose Byrne), that the war becomes personal for him, and he leads a showdown, initially with Prince Hector (Eric Bana), and later in raising Troy to the ground.

In Troy, German director Wolfgang Petersen gives us an old fashioned, overly long, epic film in the style of Cecil B. DeMille.

Technically the film is outstanding with a huge cast, hundreds of computer generated images, superb art direction, finely crafted costumes, and stunning locations.

Only the music score misses the mark. It is way too big, even for cinema on this scale, and so often overpowers the pictures.

Less successful is the pace of the film and some of the acting. DeMille knew that big films did not have to be ponderous ones as well.

Petersen takes far too long to set up the showdown and has a habit of introducing important characters like Paris, Helen and Andromache (Helen Burrows), only to lose them for long periods of screen time.

The older actors all demonstrate their gravitas and skill. Brendan Gleeson, Brian Cox and especially Peter O’Toole make the most of every scene in which they appear.

The three young principal players are less convincing. Brad Pitt makes such a pretty Achilles, blond locks and all, it’s hard to take his military might seriously, and from the many shots of his naked torso and bare bottom we get the idea that he did not win this role for his acting ability alone.

Bloom’s cowardly Paris is too dreamy, and Bana’s stilted delivery makes us feel like we are watching a poor audition tape for NIDA.

There are six major battle scenes in Troy, so the body count is high, though the soundtrack carries most of the implied violence.

There are also loads of moral lessons in Troy that have extraordinary resonances for the world today, about respect for one’s enemies, the dehumanisation of torture, and how it is often young soldiers who have to pay with their lives for the designs of old despots.

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