So I watched Troy…
I remember when this movie first came out, I was really eager to see it but unfortunately I couldn’t because it was Rated R and I was unfortunately not sixteen at the time. I ended up watching The Day After Tomorrow which was actually not a bad replacement but that’s a story for another day. Subsequently, I’ve watched Troy a few times since and I honestly can’t understand why it isn’t a bigger phenomenon and doesn’t have a larger cultural status.
Okay, basic plot: After years of battle, the nations of Troy and Sparta negotiate a truce through King Menelaus (ruler of Sparta) and the two Trojans princes, Hector (Eric Bana) and Paris (Orlando Bloom). This truce is broken when Prince Paris smuggles Menelaus’ wife – Helen – away from Sparta. This betrayal plays perfectly into the plans of King Agamemnon (Brian Cox), Menelaus’ brother who has long had desires to conquer Troy and finally has a reason to go on the warpath. Agamemnon gathers an army the size of which has never existed and sails to Troy ready to conquer. Amongst Agamemnon’s forces is Achilles (Brad Pitt) – the greatest warrior in Greek history who fights not for his king but rather his own personal glory. As the greatest battle in history approaches it soon becomes clear that both glory and doom await all involved.
The reason why I can’t figure out why this movie wasn’t more successful is because of the vast quantity of quality it possesses. This is a film with almost no flaws, where every aspect of it, from direction to acting to music composition, is beautifully crafted. My favourite thing about this film is its script. As with the majority of films classified as epics, the dialogue in this piece is magnificent. It’s filled with the elegant decorum that comes with period dramas but is also extremely concise and avoids being overly verbose. The way the characters are written and the way they fit into the plot is also wondrous. There are no real protagonists or antagonists in this film really or rather should I say, the film doesn’t limit itself to only having one in either category. Achilles is the central figure and this is his story for all intents and purposes but the story is also told from the viewpoints of several other characters. Agememnon, Hector, Paris and his stolen bride, Helen all feature heavily and we get to see the film unfold through their eyes as much as from Achilles’.
The script also never forces us into choosing a side to root for. We’re given insight into both the Greeks and Trojans – with the flaws and strengths of both being showcased but both are presented equally and with no intonation so you’re left free to choose who to support. Now just because you’re not guided into picking a side doesn’t mean that you won’t become emotionally attached to the characters. That’s the beauty of this film – it never limits your emotional connection to the characters because it never makes you see one side as good or bad.
A close second on my list of favourite features about this film has to be its cast. It’s an ensemble cast and one that is handled with superb balance and attentiveness. The problem with all star casts is that often the star power of the actor overpowers the strength of the character. This isn’t a problem in Troy because it’s clearly evident that the screentime each character receives is due to the needs of the story and not the demands of the actor. A great job is also done with the make-up and costume design because often characters are unrecognisable. Furthermore the entire cast commits so devotedly to their portrayal of their characters that you see only the character and not the superstar behind them. This film is filled with superstars: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Peter O’Toole, Rose Byrne. Every member of the cast produces a stellar performance with Brad Pitt and Eric Bana being the cream of the crop.
Pitt as Achilles is a master class of acting. He perfectly embodies the arrogance and undeniable charm of the legendary warrior. Bana also puts in a divine turn as Hector. Achilles and Hector are like two sides of the same coin with Hector’s sensibility and humility serving as the perfect foil to Achilles. Pitt and Bana have limited time on screen together but the brief moments they share are remarkable. The first being an introductory encounter where Hector is eager to fight but Achilles delays their inevitable confrontation explaining that, “it’s too early in the day for killing princes…”. When the pair do eventually square off, it results in a exhilarating fight sequence. The fight between the two is one of my favourite movie fight scenes of all time. The choreography is fast paced and filled with danger and excitement. You genuinely fear for both parties and the result of the fight is hard-earned and beautifully constructed. The scoring of the fight scene is majestic with music composer – James Horner – raising the bar to extraordinary heights. Director Wolfgang Petersen does a great job using wide camera angles and keeping the cuts to a minimum to ensure optimal viewing of the splendor.
Now while Troy is a glorious film,, it’s not without its flaws. After Achilles and Hector have their battle, the film clearly runs out of both steam and purpose and sputters to its end. The film is just over two-and-a-half hours long but because of its steady pacing, action-packed battles and engrossing dialogue it moves along quite nicely and you never feel the length. The depth of the story more than justifies its runtime but the conclusion of the film is lacking the thrill and excitement of the scenes that came before it. It feels like the film used up all its energy on the fight between Achilles and Hector and forgot that it still had another three-quarters of an hour to go.
Overall, Troy is a wonderful Epic, crafted with real care and quality. Brad Pitt and Eric Bana shine brightest among a cast filled with radiant stars. David Benioff produces a marvelous script which Wolfgang Petersen brings to life sensationally. This film is a must-see 8/10