Troy is definitely big enough but not nearly strong enough to hold it all together
Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy announces itself as a film version of an ancient classic, The Iliad, but the onscreen results look more like a glorified sword-and-sandal epic trying to cash in on repeat business from the mobs who went to see Gladiator a couple of years back.
Petersen and screenwriter David Benioff certainly make use of people, places and events that are part of Homer’s classic, but Troy is plainly more concerned with tailoring the material into viable commercial entertainment, with literary and historical values present only for their aura of prestige.
That’s business as usual with historical spectacles in Hollywood, but here it also has the effect of making the film into series of grandiloquent gestures with precious little dramatic and emotional coherence. While the wrath of Achilles, the tragedy of Hector, the romance of Helen of Troy and the sorrows of Priam are all present in one way or another, Troy‘s version of their story too often verges on nonsense.
The Trojans, King Priam (Peter O’Toole) and his warrior son Hector (Eric Bana), are the most richly drawn and sympathetic characters in the film, but the casting of Brad Pitt as the half-crazed Greek superhero Achilles seems to have unhinged every aspect of the picture’s narrative and dramatic dynamics. The tragedies of Hector and Priam play through with dignity and conviction, and yet they get half-smothered in the film’s inexplicably respectful treatment of Pitt’s Achilles, a petulant, gifted, murderous bully-boy whose gestures at redemption never really ring true.
Bana and O’Toole are excellent, and Sean Bean gives us some piquant glimpses of Odysseus, the crafty hero of Homer’s other great epic poem. Julie Christie has a sharply etched cameo as Achilles’ mother, and Brendan Gleeson’s Menelaus gets much more interesting toward the end. Brian Cox, the movies’ first Hannibal Lecter, plays Agamemnon with relish, and sometimes to excess.
There is a certain momentary brilliance in several of the individual death scenes, but the computer-generated imagery in the epic-sized battle scenes relegates the massive scale to something abstract and weightless. James Horner’s score resorts again and again to a kitschy choral wail and succeeds only in further betraying the film’s failure to convey commensurate emotions through its images and action.