Film review

Horse Opera

DIRECTED BY Wolfgang Petersen

STARRING Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom

Opened May 21, Cert 12A, 160 mins

Unquestionably a response to the ersatz mythologising of Gladiator and The Lord Of The Rings, Wolfgang Petersen's Troy is the real deal—based on the classical world's most celebrated text, Homer's The Iliad. The story focuses on the fall of the Phrygian city of Troy some time between 1200-1100BC: Trojan prince Paris absconds with Helen, wife of Spartan king Menelaus, sparking an all-out war as the massed armies of Greece, led by Menelaus' brother, Mycenaean king Agamemnon, undertake a decade-long siege of the impregnable city of Troy.

Petersen and screenwriter David Benioff have had it all handed to them on a plate: peerless source material bursting with all the Big Themes—love, war, greed, vengeance, honour—alongside some of the greatest heroic archetypes fiction has ever produced. And look at that cast—beautiful A-list people all, and buffed to perfection here.

So, why isn't this a five-star movie?

The key problem is the pivotal romance between Paris and Helen. Orlando Bloom has all the charisma of a glass of milk, and frankly his Paris is such a cowardly, selfish little shit it's almost impossible to believe anyone but a mother could love him, let alone the most beautiful woman in the world. As Helen, newcomer Diane Kruger is certainly not the back end of a number 48, but her acting range is woefully limited. The beautiful and the bland.

Around these two, though, circle enough finer talents to make it work. Eric Bana brings the requisite grit and determination to Hector, Troy's champion and Paris' elder brother. Brad Pitt certainly looks the part as Achilles, the fearless Greek warrior "born to end lives", despite a vocal delivery which appears to contravene numerous laws of physics. Elsewhere, Sean Bean's Odysseus is resourceful and driven, although the part is disappointingly underwritten, while Brian Cox's Agamemnon and Brendan Gleeson's Menelaus make a fine double act—Agamemnon's proud, power-hungry king balances well with Menelaus' brawling, revenge-seeking cuckold. Peter O'Toole inevitably brings a touch of RSC class to his role as Trojan king Priam.

Petersen directs briskly if unremarkably. But he can organise a damn good scrap, whether it be the opening clash as the two armies meet outside the city walls or the famous duel between Hector and Achilles.

The 16th-century fortifications around Malta's capital, Valletta, stand in for Troy itself.

Benioff's script is ruthlessly stripped down, meaning much of the original story is either condensed or jettisoned. Admittedly, Benioff's a curious choice for screenwriter—his last credit was adapting his novel 25th Hour for Spike Lee—and his script strives too self-consciously to reinforce its epic credentials.

Disappointing.

Rating: 3 / 10


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