R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Wolfgang Petersen
scr David Benioff
with Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Brian Cox, Peter O'Toole, Sean Bean, Brendan Gleeson, Rose Byrne, Saffron Burrows, Tyler Mane, James Cosmo, Garrett Hedlund, Julian Glover, Nigel Terry, Julie Christie
release US/UK 14.May.04
04/US 2h45

Get it off your chest: Bana and Bloom (above); Byrne and Pitt (below)


cox otoole bean

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Adapting Homer's epic poem into an epic movie is a double-edged sword: It brings the superb story to the masses while simplifying it drastically. This film is like The Iliad for Dummies in its one-dimensional approach to what are essentially extremely complex characters.

Achilles (Pitt) is the rebellious star warrior in the Greek empire being built by King Agamemnon (Cox) as he conquers the region's kingdoms one-by-one. Then two princes from Troy, Hector and Paris (Bana and Bloom), abscond with Helen (Kruger), wife of King Menelaus (Gleeson), who happens to be Agamemnon's brother. This gives Agamemnon an excuse to attack Troy with the goal of annexing it to the empire as well. But the Trojan King Priam (O'Toole) has built a mighty fortress on the sea. And even with 1,000 ships and an inspiring fighter like Achilles, Agamemnon is going to have to think of something clever to get in....

OK we all know where the story's going; even if we've never read Homer, this is the tale that launched a thousand cliches! But instead of going for period authenticity or intriguing subtext, the filmmakers turn the saga into a typical action epic. Still, the inventiveness of the narrative shines through: This is a story without a villain! We are drawn into both sides through each character's honour (or lack thereof). And the cast bring this out beautifully: Pitt shows Achilles' deep-rooted sense of honour even as he acts like a spoiled rock star. Bloom brings out Paris' inexperience and cowardice, even as he discovers resolve in his romance with Helen. And best of all, Bana really captures Hector's struggle to balance the demands of family and kingdom.

Meanwhile, Petersen directs with a steady hand--the film looks fabulous! The effects are seamless (it helps that a cast of thousands was actually on hand, even if they look like 100,000 on screen), battles are exciting, and sets and costumes are lovely, if too movie-ish (is it my imagination or is Pitt's designer leather skirt about four inches shorter than everyone else's?). Where the film wobbles is in its silly script, which includes painfully corny lines of dialog that only old hams like O'Toole or bulldogs like Cox can deliver convincingly. If Petersen and Benioff had stayed truer to the original tale and resisted Hollywood's tendency to dumb-down the story and big-up the production design, it could have been masterful.

cert 15 themes, violence 13.May.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Brian Croos, net: 5/5 "Excellent movie, lots of action!" (15.May.04)

Troy Troy Trevor Cook, Coral Springs, Florida: 4/5 "David Benioff's script is in no way, shape or form an adaptation of Homer's Iliad. Many major characters are changed immensely (Briseis from mere slave girl to Trojan royalty; Patroklos from Achilles' best friend/lover to cousin, but that's to appease all the homophobic ultra conservatives), but the overall flow of the story is intact. The acting is quite good, standouts being Bana, Burrows, O'Toole and Bean (wonderful as always). Achilles is good role, and I think Pitt tears into it well. The battles suffer from the fact that the siege of Troy is in many ways like the siege of Helm's Deep in The Two Towers, though I enjoyed the scenes in this film more simply because, compared to the slightly cartoony and very PG-13 fights in Towers, Troy's battles are bloody and intense. The film's real strength, though, are the duels. The one-on-one between Hector and Achilles has superb choreography and real ferocity. That said, there were some issues. First, James Horner's music: Half of it copied Hans Zimmer's Gladiator sound and style and the rest was utterly forgettable. Second, Helen: This is the most beautiful woman in the world? While Kruger is solid, she just looks too much like the stereotypical 'hot German blonde.' Also, while Bloom is visually perfect for pretty-boy Paris, we never gain the real sense of them being in true love. Overall, a solid epic. The fights are good, the script is acceptable (though not as exceptional as I had hoped), and Petersen never loses sight of the human drama amidst all the CGI and spectacular battles. And with the throwaway scene of Paris giving the sword of Troy to Aeneas, we might get the Odyssey and the Aeneid out of this." (17.May.04)

Troy Kathy, net: 4.5/5 "Fantastic---Pitt and Bana were fantastic. The fight between the two was hard because I was torn between them on who I wanted to be the victor. Dissappointing was Paris and Helen--there was absolutely no chemistry between the two. On a whole the movie was great. I've already seen it 4 times." (21.May.04)

Phil, Amersham: 3/5 "the story was a bit dissapointing. the fight scenes were amazing and i think that's were the director was concentraing on the most. brad pitt,eric bana and orlando bloom were really good in this film, and the sets were really good as well. go see it - some people will like it some won't." (22.May.04)

Troy Laurie T, Minneapolis: "Is this a hit because nothing else is playing to compete against it - and the rumors of the nude scenes with Brad Pitt? okay, they are just rumors - you don't see enough to get too excited, just glimpses of skin as he demonstrates that Achilles is the 'warrior who cannot be controlled and does his own thing, period.' I was not sure I wanted to see this movie, but a co-worker told me she liked it - she said it was long, but she was never bored. I will say I enjoyed it. I am vaguely aware of the whole plot - no, I did not read Homer, but I have read a few mythology stories. And who has not heard of the Trojan horse? This is not a super great movie, but it is entertaining and has some good fight scenes. And yeah, Brad looks good in short skirts." (1.Jun.04)

Troy Dee, Michigan: 5/5 "This was one of the best films of the year so far, with a wonderful story that stayed true to classic story, even if Hollywoodish, and the scenery and costumes were superb. By far the actor that stole this film and was actually the star was Eric Bana. He was amazing and captured the audiences' hearts. Especially what he stood for and cared about more than any glory-filled fighter on the other side. When the inevitable happened, the film gave a sense of loss and loneliness, and the lesson in the film really hit home for what war really is and does to the human spirit. Good job by Pitt, Bloom, O'Toole, Bean, Kruger, and all the rest. But because of this film, Bana will be huge. This man can act." (29.Jun.04)

2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall