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Review byMatthew Turner14/05/2004

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 165 mins

Epic action drama, impressively directed by Wolfgang Petersen – the jaw-dropping set-pieces more than compensate for the frequent lapses in script and performance.

If you’d seen the trailer for Troy, you could be forgiven for thinking that it had all the ingredients for a flop of epic proportions: masses of Dodgy CGI, Brad Pitt in a dress, some truly cringeworthy acting and a cast in which Paris (Orlando Bloom) is prettier than Helen (Diane Kruger).

Thankfully, although the script is mostly awful and the performances occasionally laughable, director Wolfgang Petersen more than compensates for this by delivering a set of blistering action sequences and genuinely engaging fight scenes.

Homoeroticism? In the Iliad?

The plot is “inspired by” Homer’s Iliad, which basically means they’ve stripped out all the bits with the Gods, glossed over any hints of homosexuality by giving everyone a female love interest (though it’s still fairly Homer-erotic as it’s teeming with muscley, sweaty, half-naked men who look at each other adoringly) and added the Trojan Horse.

While on a mission to make peace with Menelaus, the King of Sparta (Brendan Gleeson), Prince Paris of Troy beds Menelaus’ wife Helen (Diane Kruger) and then spirits her away aboard his ship and back to Troy, much to his brother Hector’s (Eric Bana) displeasure.

Naturally, Menelaus isn’t entirely comfortable with the idea either and he persuades his greedy, land-hungry brother Agamemnon (Brian Cox) to go to war with the Trojans on his behalf, at which point, Helen becomes ‘the face that launched a thousand CGI ships’.

Meanwhile, the great warrior Achilles (Brad Pitt) can barely disguise his contempt for Agamemnon. However, Achilles’ Achilles Heel (apart from, er, his actual heel) is his own lust for glory and immortality, so Agamemnon knows just how to goad him to get him to fight.

Acting And Script Patchy – But Redeemed By Superb Violence

Both the acting and the script are patchy to say the least. Pitt looks terrific in the role, but does so much brow-furrowing during his ‘serious’ scenes that he starts to look like a confused chimpanzee.

Orlando Bloom doesn’t fare much better, although he improves considerably once he gets a bow and arrow in his hand and is able to channel Legolas. That said, there’s zero chemistry between him and Helen, which is a little unfortunate under the circumstances.

In fact, most of the performances have their share of good and awful moments: Eric Bana starts off with a dodgy accent and lots of shouting but is genuinely moving in his later scenes; similarly Peter O’Toole as King Priam is saddled with some hilariously bad reaction shots but pulls off his Big Dramatic scene beautifully.

Although several scenes provoke unintentional laughter, Petersen makes up for all this by delivering on the action sequences in spades. Highlights include: the first battle outside Troy; Achilles’ duel with Hector; the Trojan Horse sequence and a wonderful set-piece in which it initially looks as if the Trojans are about to mount a surprise attack with several large balls of string.

Crucially, this is not just empty spectacle - Petersen invests the action sequences with genuine emotion and characters you care about get killed. Troy also deftly avoids the two things that ruined Gladiator – firstly the CGI is used sparingly and is not intrusive or obvious and secondly the fight scenes are shot and edited so that you can actually see what’s going on.

In short, though Troy is undeniably flawed in terms of script and acting, it’s still a genuinely exciting, enjoyable blockbuster.

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Content updated: 19/10/2019 18:46

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