We begin in a time of peace. Sparta and Troy have recently declared a truce after years of fighting. What a joyous occasion it is, too. There is a grand party held in Sparta to celebrate this upcoming calm in the battles. Unfortunately, this introduces two young single royals, the Queen of Sparta, Helen (Diane Kruger) and one of the Princes of Troy, Paris (Orlando Bloom). Helen is married to Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), but that doesn’t stop the lovemaking of that night (and, we learn, nights prior as well).
The next morning, Sparta awakens with one fewer in her midst. Helen has decided to sail back with Paris and the other Prince, Hector (Eric Bana). Deciding that this is a good time to break the day-long peace, Menelaus and his brother, Agamemnon (Brian Cox), swear to get Helen back and crush Troy in its wake. What better reason than love to wage war against someone you don’t particularly like in the first place?
I suppose now would be a good time to mention the actor who was first billed, and also the first major player we get to see. In the film’s opening scene, we watch the mercenary Achilles (Brad Pitt) slay a man he’s tasked with facing. He does this will little difficulty, even though he didn’t arrive to the battle on-time, nor did he seem ready. A child asks him if he can be killed, although Achilles insists that if he couldn’t, he wouldn’t have to wear armor. For a lot of the film — in fact, practically every scene where war isn’t going on — he doesn’t wear any. I wonder if Brad Pitt was ever in this impressive of shape before.
Achilles ends up fighting on the Spartan side, although whether or not he’s really with them is up for debate. He wants his name to be remembered forever, but it seems like he doesn’t really care who he’s fighting for or against. He knows that nobody can touch him, and he demands that nobody gives him orders. If he doesn’t want to fight on a certain day, he’s not going to, and he has an entire squad willing to fight for him. His attitude is far more carefree than other characters, and he also seems to have a severe disdain for the Greek gods.
The plethora of characters serve as witnesses and combatants for multiple grand-scale battles over the course of more than two (or three, if you watch the director’s cut) hours. Despite the lengthy running time, director Wolfgang Petersen gives us a ton of long battles that always left me entertained. Even though the version I watched was almost 200 minutes long, I wasn’t bored for even one of those minutes. Everything gave me entertainment in one way or another, even the scenes where all the characters were doing was sitting around and talking.
Troy is supposedly based on Homer’s The Iliad, although it isn’t exactly a literal translation. This is probably a good idea, and screenwriter David Benioff did claim that he always decided to put what would work best on-screen when writing it, but those expecting a true adaptation will be disappointed. I would also think you’d be disappointed if you were hoping for a non-action film.
I was kind of surprised at how much action there was in Troy. I expected something along the lines of a war-drama where the action scenes bookended the film but would never be the focus. What I got was essentially the opposite, with a ton of action scenes scattered throughout, with characters taking a backseat at all times to the great numbers of times when muscled men go after one another with swords, shields and spears.
That’s not to say that there isn’t enough character depth — with 196 minutes, you had better not skimp in this area — although I can’t speak for the theatrical cut in this regard. I’ve seen that cut twice, but I can’t remember it well enough to comment on how much time characters are given. But in the director’s cut, I was satisfied by how much time we got with the characters. They grow on us, and by the end of the three-plus hours, we don’t want to leave them.
Actors weren’t bad, although some felt like they weren’t quite sure what the goal was with their characters. Peter O’Toole plays the King of Troy, although he seemed to ham it up far more frequently than a role like that required (you’ll understand why when you see the film and realize what the city of Troy goes through). But with a supporting cast of Sean Bean, Rose Byrne, Brendan Gleeson, Brian Cox (the latter two I mentioned above but they don’t play particularly large roles), you expect good performances.
Troy really does fit the definition of an “epic.” It’s crafted on such a massive scale, everyone is larger than life, it’s long, the score is majestic, and it has an ensemble cast of well-known actors. Seriously, some of the shots in this film, despite being made from special effects, are awe-inspiring and really need to be seen to be believed.
I really enjoyed Troy. I was never bored, which is a very difficult thing to achieve once you pass the two and a half hour mark, and it was filled with rich battles and deep-enough characters. It’s scale is massive, the acting is adequate, and the battles are just so much fun that I can’t see why anyone who likes these types of films wouldn’t enjoy them. While many liberties were taken when adapting The Iliad onto film, I think this was a good decision, as it made Troy an incredibly enjoyable experience.