Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Troy (2004) - Grandly un-PC Retelling of the Epic Tale

Troy 2004 film poster
"Troy" (2004).

Wolfgang Petersen's "Troy" (2004), starring Brad Pitt, Julian Glover, Brian Cox, Diane Kruger and Orlando Bloom, is a great film, based closely on the different versions (Greek and Roman) of the classic tale about an ancient Greek invasion. Brad Pitt is awesome, and some of the supporting bits were just as good.

Troy 2004 Diane Kruger
Well, what do we have here?  Diane Kruger as Helen of Troy!

"Troy," on the other hand, really is memorable. I am still thinking about it long after I saw it. It seems to me that it follows the tale quite closely, which is a good thing - I don't want any modern political correctness filtering into this kind of classic. Give Hollywood a chance to really work it over, and Hector would be played by Ice Cube, Agamemnon would be played by Meryl Streep, Achilles would have an affair with Paris - you get the picture.

Troy 2004 Peter O'Toole
OK, so he's not as fun to look at as Diane Kruger, but Peter O'Toole is marvelous in "Troy."

Fortunately, Wolfgang Petersen ("Das Boot," "Air Force One") keeps things on the up-and-up. Here, you have some of the greatest actors of the day playing it straight. I haven't seen Peter O'Toole, who plays old King Priam, look this good in a film since "Lawrence of Arabia." And that was decades ago. I have NEVER seen Brad Pitt do the job he does here. And Eric Bana just startled me with how good he was, though he's kind of ... weak... in a modern sort of way.. Who is he again?

Troy 2004 Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt is the solid center of "Troy" as Achilles.
This film should be required viewing in high school classrooms across the country someday, just as "Quo Vadis" or "The Good Earth" used to be in the 1960s/1970s. If kids can't take the time and effort to read anything other than "Harry Potter," at least they can learn this story from viewing it - and this definitely is a story worth knowing.

Let me pick out a few standout scenes and leave it at that. I thought the - I am not giving anything away here - sack of Troy was handled brilliantly. I felt nothing but a deep, profound sadness as I watched it. I am positive that this is the emotion director Petersen intended, and it worked. The Trojans were nobler, smarter and more gracious than the Greeks, but were undone by the classic trick of all time. The handing off of the sword of Troy at the end, now, including that in the film was a mark of genius, even though it isn't from Homer, but rather from a later romantic, er, Roman version.

Troy 2004 Orlando Bloom Diane Kruger
I think he has a weak chin, but the ladies love Orlando Bloom as Paris....

I could quibble about some of the weak CGI effects of the Greek fleet, or the fact that practically nobody in the cast looks Greek but instead all look German or at least northern European (there is a weird belief among some that the Trojans were Aryan, I don't know where on earth that comes from), or some really atrocious lapses in dialog (when Brad Pitt as Achilles says during the big seduction scene, "We will never be here again," I almost thought he would burst out laughing and a Barry White song would start up), but no film is perfect. I think this is as close as they will ever get in telling this tale the right way.

Troy 2004
Come on, you knew you were going to see this scene, right?

I am thankful that a Hollywood in decline was still able to crank out a film this good. As said in a great scene toward the end, "The boatman waits for us. Let's make him wait a little longer." Well done.


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