Armies clash, swords fall, Troy rises

May 20, 2004, midnight | By Dan Greene | 17 years, 1 month ago

Make no mistake about it; Troy is a big movie. Everything about this Greek action-epic is huge: the action, the egos of the walking legends involved and the body count at the end of Troy's long, bloody battles. The only thing you'll find undersized in the midst of this larger-than-life drama might be Achilles' (Brad Pitt) tight-fitting body armor and battle-ready mini skirt, which may or may not be your thing.

The tale of this ancient Bronze-Age battle, for the most part, delivers on its promise of sweeping action and high drama on a huge scope, riding on the back of stunning, brutal fights and acting that makes these battles personal and human.

Most high-schoolers know the basic premise of Troy from the required helpings of Homer forced down their literary gullet. And while Troy doesn't strictly adhere to this millennia-old framework, the main themes and plot pieces are present in all their bloody, Greek glory. The story opens, as almost every other Greek or Roman epic ever has, with brief text explaining the situation of the world as we move into the action: Greek king Agamemnon (Brian Cox) has forcibly united much of the Mediterranean nation, and he has delusions of grandeur that extend to the rest of the globe.

At the head of Agamemnon's forces is Achilles, the greatest warrior in history, or so it's told. We first see Pitt go mano a mano with the champion of a fledgling nation opposed to Agamemnon's forced peace; in one of the sheer coolest moments of the movie Pitt dodges the giant's strikes to slam dunk his sword right into the beast's neck. Pitt's effortless combat—he makes it all look like mere sport—and brutality on the battlefield, contrasted with his remorse off of it, adds up to a performance worthy of his top billing.

The scene shifts to Sparta, where, after successful peace negotiations, Trojan brothers Hector (Eric Bana, in a role that makes us all forgive him for Hulk) and Paris (Orlando Bloom, as doe-eyed as ever) are set to return home. But Paris has a souvenir: Sparta's wife, Helen (Diane Kruger). As you might imagine, Spartan king Menelaus (Brandon Gleeson) isn't overjoyed at the news, and so enlists his brother Agamemnon, who has been itching for a chance to invade the mighty Trojans. Menelaus goes to Troy with him to bring back Paris and Helen's heads. The young lovers' passionate affair forces the older, wiser, battle-scarred Hector to fight a war for his brother that could very likely end in the death of every last man, woman and child in Troy.

At the heart of any good epic are the battle scenes; Troy gives you plenty. These are battles from back in the day, when nothing about war was clean, when the man you killed was looking you straight back in the eyes when he died. The clashes between armies are the true stars of Troy, and director Wolfgang Petersen skillfully forces you to reevaluate your position with each one. Each side does horrible things in war, everyone is a villain, something Petersen displays with gruesome clarity.

While the epic sword and spear slaughter of thousands is the body of the movie, its heart lies in the duels. One-on-one encounters between Paris and Menelaus, a fight loaded with equal parts honor and emotion, and the confrontation between Achilles and Hector, a jaw-dropping struggle that leaves everyone in the audience gasping, highlight the personalities of their respective combatants and really bring to the fore the fact that these battles are just as much a clash of characters and personalities as between armies. Hector's weariness, Achilles' brutality, and Menelaus' anger all become visible as they try to bring the other man down.

But what's a sword without a man to hold it? The acting in Troy, for the most part, delivers epic characters worthy of the legends that inspired them. The highlight of these is Bana's Hector. You can tell he truly has seen it all and would gladly lay down his sword, but for a sense of duty and loyalty that will keep him fighting till his last breath.

Unfortunately, the Greek muses didn't visit all of the major players in Troy. Bloom's Paris comes off as whiny, and to put it simply, the kid is a punk. You get the feeling that he's not doing this out of love, but just for the sake of bothering everyone else involved in the war. Cox's Agamemnon is suitably grandiose, but his given motivation for the entire film must have been "be angry"; he wears a constant scowl that never conveys any real emotion.

While some might complain that the film doesn't strictly follow to the Iliad's source material, this isn't entirely a bad thing. Achilles' role is overblown, while Odysseus' is shrunken, but Pitt's role as the center of the violence the film focuses on justifies this. The film clearly doesn't stretch over the ten years of the book, but I think anyone who sees it will be content with what's contained in its already lengthy screen time.

Troy delivers rousing action on both a small and large scale; the minds behind the film truly brought this ancient battlefield to life. Convincing performances and brilliant fights bring the pain of this 3,200-year-old struggle to 21st century hearts and minds. The gods surely smile on Troy.

Troy is rated R for graphic violence and some sexuality/nudity.

Tags: print

Dan Greene. Dan, alright fine, VJ, is proud to be a senior at Blair and a member of the best paper. Ever. He's really funny, trust him. As managing sports editor and ombudsman he enjoys sports and ombudsing. Dan also enjoys literature, soccer and crude humor. One … More »

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