by: Gnĉus Dionysius Draco
Movie: Troy (2004)
Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen
Just like The Passion of the Christ, classicists will have a field day with this movie. Make no mistake, Troy is still a movie about war, honour, shame, rivalry, cruelty and redemption; but the most apparent difference with the classic is the tone of the story. The Iliad and other epics of the Trojan cycle are much darker than this movie. In the original epic, Agamemnon and Menelaos don't die, Andromache and Helena do not escape, King Priamos is killed in a much more belittling way, Achilleus is not the moral hero and Astyanax (Hector's child) is thrown off the city walls by the Greek conquerors. This somewhat lighter tone is my most immediate qualm with the movie.
Purists will possibly also object to the absence of many other heroes such as Diomedes or Philoktetes, or the merging of the two Ajaxes and the merging of Chryseis and Briseis into Briseis, or the rivalry between Agamemnon and Achilleus starting out before the war. Or the fact that the siege of Troy lasts about three weeks in the movie but comprises ten years in the epic. Or the absence of the gods! Still, I don't consider these matters to be very important. This movie was not made to please purists, but to bring the story of Troy to a big audience. And it succeeds very well at that.
Brad Pitt (Achilleus) once again demonstrates his talent and depicts an excellent Achilleus, both in his whims, moods and pride. The suggested homo-erotic tension between Achilleus and Patroklos is also played out nicely. Brian Cox (Agamemnon) obviously enjoys his role and is probably most faithful to the epic. Although Peter O'Toole (Priamos) has been almost universally praised for his performance, I did not find it completely satisfactory. He seemed to be using the same expression for both fear, amazement and sadness. Eric Bana (Hector) was a better fighter than an actor, but Wolfgang Petersen clearly made the best of the circumstances and the actors he was working with.
The choreography was good, but the spectacle factor could have been higher. After all, what Homer depicted was not the historical reality but an all-encompassing spectacular war. Petersen's Troy looks very spectacular, and so do the scenes of the armies crashing into each other, but the sense of doom and urgency of the battle is absent.
So, is it a good movie? Yes. Is it excellent? No.