Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"Ultimately, there is no depth to the drama and precious little soul."

Mythology made real can look foolish. Achilles (Brad Pitt) is half human, half god, although (thankfully) not treated as an immortal. They say he's the greatest warrior who ever lived and when you see him running head first into a phalanx of enemy soldiers, with only a sword and a shield, you think, "Either this guy is mad, extraordinarily lucky or Superman in sandals."

Wolfgang Petersen's two-and-a-half hour epic, loosely based on Homer's The Iliad, that tells of the siege of Troy, after Priam's (Peter O'Toole) son Paris (Orlando Bloom) elopes with Helen (Diane Kruger), the wife of Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), the brother of Agamemnon (Brian Cox), king of the Greeks, is a series of staged battles, not dissimilar to those in The Lord Of The Rings, except the weather's better. These are interspersed with homespun interludes, involving Saffron Burrows, as Priam's eldest son Hector's (Eric Bana) wife, being nausiatingly whiney, clutching a baby with a gigantic head, and Achilles lazing naked in his tent with assorted crumpet.

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As in the Tolkien trilogy, you don't look for acting skills, rather superior fight sequences and the odd single combat duel that wets the inside of your palms. Cox and Bana walk away with the thespian accolades, with Sean Bean, as Odysseus, coming up strongly on the outside and Gleeson behaving large and loud, like an Irish butcher at a Wimbledon lettuce tasting.

The film has been sold on the Pitt factor and it would be churlish to deny him his moment in the sun. After a year having his body reshaped by Hunk-U-Like torturers, who consider physical fitness second only to the holy grail, he looks like a Michelangelo sculpture on wheels. The character he plays, however, is an enigma.

Achilles hates winning Agamemnon's battles. "Imagine a king who fights his own wars," he mocks - is this a coded message from the anti-Bush campaign? - and yet has no ambitions to become a politician, or lead a rebellion. The only reason he agrees to join the armada, en route for Troy, despite knowing perfectly well that the Helen spin - revenge, honour, etc - disguises Agamemnon's true motive, which is to burn the city to the ground and grab Priam's kingdom for himself, is vanity.

"The war will never be forgotten," he tells his mate Odysseus. "Neither will the heroes who fight in it."

Ultimately, there is no depth to the drama and precious little soul. Although in a different league to live action cartoons, such as The Mummy, Petersen's film does not throw money at a CGI company and hope for the best. He wants to do it right, but with a script by David Benioff that provides lines like, "I'm not afraid of dying; I'm afraid of tomorrow," he has his work cut out.

It is impossible not to appeciate the effort and there are moments when commitment from the actors is palpable and yet Bloom comes across as too wet and O'Toole as too toasty. The best scene is Hector and Achilles in mortal combat. They have an energy and intensity that fires the imagination and makes you forget that there's no humour in this film, only blood, sand and necklaces.

Reviewed on: 20 May 2004
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Troy packshot
The ultimate war over a woman, as the ancient Greeks lay siege to Troy.
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Director: Wolfgang Petersen

Writer: David Benioff, based on The Iliad by Homer

Starring: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Brian Cox, Peter O'Toole, Sean Bean, Brendan Gleeson, Siri Svegler, Julie Christie, James Cosmo, Saffron Burrows, Rosie Byrne

Year: 2004

Runtime: 163 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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