Thursday, 9 April 2009

Movie Review - Troy [2004]

[This is a bit of a meandering review since I wrote it in the early hours of the morning at the time and then edited it a couple of times after that... still not too bad a review though, I hope!]


I hope you all appreciate this review as I went to a midnight showing and am writing this at three in the morning – so apologies for any incoherencies there may be…

Troy is based on the Trojan Wars as chronicled in Homer’s Iliad(from what I can tell fairly closely – though as this book is still on my “to read” list I can’t be totally sure - though at least one other review I’ve read thinks it strayed a long way from the book!).

UPDATE – From reading other reviews and from a couple of comments to mine, it is clear that there are significant differences to original Iliad. (I don’t think this will detrimentally affect anyone who hasn’t read it, of course.) It also reminded me of one thing I had forgotten to mention in my original post of this review, which is how this film focuses attention on the relationships with the various characters to give it more depth. Particularly interesting is the contrast between the relationships between the two sets of brothers – the self-serving relationship of Menelaus and Agamemnon, and the unconditional brotherly love between the noble Hector and Paris (who learns a great deal from his older brother), and the relationship between Agamemnon and Achilles – who only tolerate each other (barely) out of mutual need. The selfishness of these characters is ultimately punished, which accounts for much of the alteration to the storyline from Homer’s original poem. Personally I think the script was very well done, but that is with only a very sketchy knowledge of Homer’s account of the Trojan Wars. But if you’re a fan of the original text, beware – don’t look for this film to follow it exactly.

I'm sure you will know the basic story though - – the Greeks war on the Trojans after a young prince from Troy (Paris) elopes with the wife of Menelaus (Helen), and gets his brother Agememnon to join him in waging bloody war on Troy. On the Greek’s side is the seemingly invincible warrior Achilles – but he doesn’t like Agememnon, who suspects that he may not always be fighting on their side…

Right from the opening scenes, you know that the cinematography is going to be special. The shots of the coastline and then moving into the battle are expertly done, although slightly hampered by poor editing between scenes. The script is good for the first half and excellent in the second, with some especially good dialogue between Achilles and Breises, and later Achilles and King Priam.

The acting is, for the most part, what raises this film to a 5-star rating, in my opinion – though it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste. Some knowledge of Greek mythology is probably an advantage – there are a few things in the film that I picked up on, which would be lost if you didn’t know a little background.

Obviously, much of this film is made up of battle scenes (and duels), and these are choreographed well enough for each to be distinct and exciting in its own right. There’s one particular scene where the method of attack used by the Trojans is absolutely ingenious (I must find out if it was ever used in reality), but I won’t tell you what it was as that would spoil the surprise. The special effects are stunning too, though just a couple of times it actually looks like computer animation – not enough to spoil things though. They compare well to similar scenes in Return of the King, the standard by which such things now have to be judged. There’s a lot of violence going on but not an awful lot of gore, thankfully. A few scenes show a lot of flesh (both male and female), but stops short of showing you anything specific. (If you see what I mean.) So it’s not got as much offensive material as, for instance, Cold Mountain, even though it’s the same rating. (Incidentally, to those interested in Homer’s work, that film is based loosely on The Odyssey, though set in the American Civil War. Both films have a strong anti-war message, although they approach the subject from very different angles.)


Characters

ACHILLES - Brad Pitt (10/10) plays Achilles to perfection, with his brooding, arrogant attitude, interest only in making a name for himself, and haunted by demons that he tries to ignore. Generally a totally unlikeable character, but occasionally becomes more human.

PRINCE HECTOR OF TROY - Eric Bana (10/10) surpasses even Pitts’ excellent performance. It’s a bit early to be talking about Oscars, but if he doesn’t at least get a nomination for this then there’s no justice in the world!

PARIS, PRINCE OF TROY - Orlando Bloom (6/10) just doesn’t convince me as Paris. Is probably in the movie more for his looks than acting ability. (With both Pitt and Bloom in this film, will it be a record-breaker in terms of female audience!??)

HELEN, QUEEN OF SPARTA - Diane Kruger (9/10) is not only beautiful enough to portray the “face that launched a thousand ships”, but plays her part with great sensitivity. The knowledge that she played a large part in all of the tragedies in the film haunts her and you can really see it.

KING PRIAM - Peter O'Toole (7/10) puts in a decent performance but his character is a little puzzling at times. Upgraded from 6/10 on the basis of one of the best scenes in the film being one between him and itt.

ODYSSEUS - Sean Bean (5/10) is an actor I’m quite a fan of, and he’s made a career out of military movies. However, I just couldn’t relate to him being Odysseus – perhaps because I’ve read The Odyssey and have a very clear idea of what I consider his character to be. Then again, the events in The Odyssey are after the Trojan war and his experiences afterwards change him, so maybe it’s not really a fair comment.

BRISEIS - Rose Byrne (8/10) plays her part extremely well for the most part, though her love affair with Achilles never really rings true.

AGAMEMNON - Brian Cox (9/10) is brilliant as the megalomaniac king who always wants more. His self-serving and sanctimonious character, and complete lack of regard for anyone other than himself, make him an even more easily dislikeable character than Achilles.

KING MENELAUS - Brendan Gleeson (5/10), to be honest, didn’t have much to work with as Agamemnon’s brother. His duelling scene is good for a laugh, though.

ANDROMACHE - Saffron Burrows (10/10) just edges it to give the best female performance in the movie as Hector’s wife.


Crew

Director: Wolfgang Petersen (9/10) ably directed the proceedings. A little overlong but the pacing was spot-on for the most part.

Screenplay: David Benioff (8/10) did a good job with the script and there was some good dialogue, but the film did rely slightly too much on battle sequences.

Director of Photography: Roger Pratt (8/10) came up with some beautiful scenes but the colour saturation was just horrible on one or two shots and actually hurt my eyes.

Editor: Peter Honess (6/10) did a reasonable job but quite often the scene changing is quite abrupt and choppy, which detracts slightly from the film.

Composer: James Horner (9/10) arranged a very moving and intense piece, that just occasionally loses its way because of sustaining the dramatic pieces slightly too long.

Costume Designer: Bob Ringwood (10/10) created some truly magnificent costumes here. Too much male flesh on display for my liking but I’m sure Doc won’t mind…


Summing Up

It’s not a perfect film, but it’s an extremely good one. It is just slightly over-long (as is the fashion these days, it seems), and will test your bladder control (mine passed - just… now you all wanted to know that, didn’t you?).

It’s all a matter of taste at the end of the day though, and perhaps my interest in Greek mythological tales made me enjoy this more than the other reviewers who got here before me. Either way, I hope my review, written when I should really be asleep (the things I do for you…), will have told you enough to know whether you want to go and watch it.

Thanks and goodnight!


See also my Review of 2004 Movies.

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