By Christophe Chataigné
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Beware Epics Bearing Pitts

This article is over 17 years, 7 months old
Review of 'Troy', director Wolfgang Petersen
Issue 286

The successes of Braveheart, Gladiator and The Lord of the Rings trilogy brought back the epic film and made it commercially viable. Troy, the latest epic, will not be an exception. Inspired by Homer’s Iliad and The Odyssey as well as Virgil’s Aeneid, director Wolfgang Petersen transforms the ten-year saga into a 163-minute movie.

Paris, the youngest prince of Troy, falls in love with Queen Helen of Sparta. Promising Helen a life full of love away from a husband she never loved, Paris convinces her to flee with him to Troy. As the older prince of Troy, Hector, realises there is an uninvited guest on board his ship, he knows peace has come to an end. The union will forever divide the two kingdoms.

The powerful king Agamemnon decides to support his brother, King Menelaus, to bring his stolen wife back to the shores of Sparta. Agamemnon only hides behind that pretext, however, as his real aim is to extend control over the Aegean region. Being the commander in chief of the Greek armies, Agamemnon’s thousand-ship fleet is en route to Troy. Achilles, the mighty, semi-godlike warrior who aspires to eternalise his name in securing the biggest victory in Greek history, doesn’t fight for the king’s glory but for his own.

Achilles and his men reach the shores of Troy first and they immediately begin fighting. Slaying their way to Apollo’s temple, they ransack it without any fear of upsetting the god – Achilles even beheads the Apollo statue. Their decisive victory encourages Agamemnon’s men to do the same with the rest of the Trojan soldiers. Invading the city of Troy, however, proves more difficult than anticipated – the city has stood firm for centuries and will not fall even under the onslaught of 50,000 Greek soldiers. More than military might is needed to break into the city. From shipwrecks they build a gigantic horse capable of containing many men. As a tribute to the Trojans and their god, Agamemnon leaves the horse on an emptied beach, pretending that he and his troops have resigned and left. Astounded by such a swift departure and the seemingly respectful gesture, the Trojans bring the horse inside the city – inevitably presaging the end of Troy.

And also the end of a very long film. In wanting to keep the story as realistic as possible, Petersen chose to erase the gods of this Greek adventure, although they are essential in Greek mythology. The gods never intervene, whether by fighting alongside either the Greeks or the Trojans or by arguing about the destiny of the mortals. The coexistence of mortals and immortals has been lost, not to make the film easier to follow but to make it easier to sell for Hollywood marketeers.

The same goes for the relationship between Achilles and Patrocles, who in the myth have a more intimate relationship but are just cousins in the film. Although Petersen tries to draw parallels with Bush and Blair and their coalition of the willing (‘If we leave now we lose credibility’ and the use of a bogus reason to invade another country) these are far outweighed by the poor acting and by the mediocrity of the film itself. Brad Pitt (Achilles) just pouts his way through the film, and Orlando Bloom (Paris) hasn’t the charisma to convince as the lover who ‘steals’ the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’. Troy the film will not have the same destiny as Troy the myth, and should be forgotten soon enough for us to go back to our Greek classics.

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