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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Troy

Starring: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Rated: R
RunTime: 164 Minutes
Release Date: May 2004
Genres: Action, Drama, War

*Also starring: Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, Brian Cox, Peter O'Toole, Brendan Gleeson, Saffron Burrows, Rose Byrne, Julie Christie, Garrett Hedlund, Vincent Regan

Review by Harvey Karten
3½ stars out of 4

Years back, when the only signs of a healthy culture were

mankind's selective tenderness toward women and a refusal to

look at their lit-up cell phones in a movie theater, there arose

two geographic entities locked in a ten-year struggle made

famous by Homer's "Iliad," Virgil's "The Aeneid" and other

sources of Greek mythology and history. As we watch the one

hundred sixty-three minutes' project of Wolfgang Petersen,

"Troy," we look upon both the heroes and zeroes as precursors

of leaders and buffoons of our own benighted times.

The principal characters of "Troy," scripted by David Benioff

who was inspired by a collection of such writers, could easily

have existed in today's world. Achilles, for example, is a warrior

that matches up nicely with President George W. Bush. As

played by the Brad Pitt, whose soulful eyes betray a mixture of

kindness (toward women) and murderous rage (toward his

enemies), he has an attitude, "I'll-go-it-alone-and-to-Hades-with-

the-rest-of-the-world's-politicians." Unlike Mr. Bush, Achilles

does not kowtow to captains of industry and war, but that's

where the contradictions end, for Achilles wants principally to be

remembered thousands of years after his exploits as the

warrior-king. Unlike President Nixon, who once said that he

would not be the first American leader to preside over a defeat

in war, Achilles does not give a damn who wins or loses, the

Greeks or the Trojans. He's out for himself, for his position in

history, a preening warrior played with appropriate narcissism

by Brad Pitt.

Yet Mr. Petersen's movie is not anchored on any one hero, his

characterizations spread, instead, among a group of the nobility

One of the number is the Trojan prince Hector (Eric Bana), who

like Cincinnatus would nothing better than to cast his swords

into plowshares and live contented with his family; If that brings

to mind any major American official today, you're a better

political scientist than I am. Another is Paris (Orlando Bloom), a

home-breaker if ever there was one, the guy who cuckolds the

brother of Spartan honcho Menelaus, played without glee by

Brendan Gleeson. Can you think of one of our recent leaders

with such a flippant attitude toward marriage? In fairness to

Paris, however, we must admit that no red-blooded man's loins

could be anything but agitated by the sight of the fair Helen

(German-born Diane Kruger), who contrary to some scholarship

was not kidnapped but who went with Paris out of lust for his

looks and tender age and her disgust with the much older

Menelaus. ("Every moment with him, I felt like jumping into the

ocean," she intones.)

For his part, Agamemnon (Brian Cox) uses his brother's

cuckolding as a mere excuse for his real ambition. Having

unified the otherwise divisive Greek city-states on the

Peloponnese and spots north, he wants only to add to his

empire and is perfectly willing to sacrifice 40,000 of his own men

for that purpose which sort of makes you wonder what's in the

battles for the particular 40,000 of Agamemnon's power-crazed

fantasy. Perhaps there's a straight line from him to the former

Chinese leader Mao, who allegedly said that 100,000,000

Chinese could die in a war but that the country would emerge

victorious, or maybe even Japanese Premier Tojo and Emperor

Hirohito, who were not convinced to surrender even after two

atomic bombs devastated their country.

Though Petersen does not have a single, central focus, his

set design including the famous Trojan horse was assembled in

London's Shepperton studios, while battle scenes were filmed in

Los Cabos on the southern tip of Baja California and in Malta.

Given that thousands of Bulgarians, Mexicans, Maltese and

Brits were hired for the project punctuates this age of


Costing $175,000,000 to make and who knows how much

more in marketing costs, "Troy" punctuates one battle scene

after another, its principal weakness lying not in the free

adaptation of "The Iliad" or other mythological and literary

sources but in the banality of the quiet scenes. While women

may drool over the newly buff Brad Pitt, who began putting on

weight and working out vigorously six months before filming

began, his romantic chats with a Trojan woman with whom the

Greeks almost had their way comes out of Cecil B. DeMille

casting, and Pitt's eyes, perhaps his most expressive part, fails

to evoke his feelings.

That said, however, "Troy" joins with "The Longest Day,' "The

Last Samurai," "Ran," and "Saving Private Ryan" for its in-your-

face battles. Archers regularly use their arrows, inflicting great

losses, though perhaps one can explain how a projectile shot at

45 degrees could harm anyone. When swords are not be

actively used, the men batter one another senseless with their

shields. The one truly awesome scene features the blazing

balls of fire sent into the Trojan camp with the force of a napalm

strike in Danang. When the Trojan king, Priam ( played by the

seventy-one-year-old Peter O'Toole whose fairly brief time

onscreen puts Pitt to shame), risks his life by going into

Achilles's tent to plead for the return of his son, Hector's body,

we wonder whether any head of state today would have the guts

to put his own life on the line as a model to the soldiers he

"bravely" consigns to be cannon fodder.

All in all, "Troy" evokes the glories of the old spectacular pics

with their inevitably clunky dialogue like "The Ten

Commandments" and "Ben-Hur," giving the women in the

audience enough biceps to embrace their fantasies and the men

a respite from modern video games with massive modern

shoot-outs and maybe even a new interest by students in their

ancient history units. Pity the teachers of the world, however.

Their talking heads, their TV videocassettes and DVDs, their

assignments to read Chapter 2 in "Hammond's World History"

will not be quite able to compete with the battle magic of "Troy."

Copyright 2004 Harvey Karten

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