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Troy: Review

Homer's Illiad has inspired movies. Two of these, Giorgio  Rivalta's "The Trojan War" in the 1960s and the 1993 "Helen of  Troy" were not overtly spectacular. The latest, Warner Brother's  "Troy" is spectacle all right, but director Wolfgang Petersen and  writer David Benioff seem to have, while drawing on the Greek  epic, lost track of a sense of balance.

Orlando Bloom (Paris) and Diane Kruger (Helen) in "Troy"

"Troy" is a Brad Pitt film, a hugely muscled Pitt who plays the  invincible Achilles. Often wooden, even when he is making love to  a captured Trojan vestal virgin, Pitt indicates a trace of human  emotion only once when he breaks down after killing Hector,  Prince of Troy. Such is Achilles' arrogance and pride -- or so is  made of him by the movie-makers -- that "Troy" appears strangely  enamoured of this Greek hero to the point of making the rest of  the cast seem like weak-kneed midgets.

Eric Bana is clearly uncomfortable as Hector, whose valour and  courage were as superior to those of Achilles. But Hector's  humility and humanity were greater than those of Achilles, who  fought for himself or, at best, for his cousin and, maybe, the  slave lover.

Petersen is awfully unfair to Hector, and Bana invariably turns  out looking like a shivering coward rather than the valiant  soldier prince that he is supposed to have been.

What is even more regrettable is that "Troy" pays very little  attention to either Paris (played by Orlando Bloom) or Helen  (Diane Kruger) whose romance provoked the 10-year war between  Troy and Sparta/Greece. If their affair lacks the fire that  eventually destroyed Troy, Helen's beauty , which launched a thousand  ships, is devoid of the spirit and spark that drove her husband,  Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson) and his ruthlessly ambitious brother,  Agememnon, to cross the Aegean Sea to wage an utterly futile  battle which spilt the blood of a generation.

With Pitt at the centre of a 162-minute saga, there is little  scope for anybody else, even for Paris, whose idea of coveting  another man's wife is not only picturised with very little  substance or style, but is also unfortunately treated as a sub-plot. One wonders why the film was not titled, "Achilles".

This man was merely part of a great inherent drama, called the Trojan War, which may have been mostly invented by Homer or poets  who lived before him. Although the Illiad begins with the Greeks  entering the 10th year of their stalemated siege of Troy, an  impregnable walled city near the Dardanelles, on the northwest  coast of what is now Turkey, Benioff capsules the whole event  into a month-long episode.

Paris whisks away Helen from her husband and Spartan kingdom, starting a war that kills Paris' elder brother, Hector, and  their old father, Priam. Peter O'Toole as the aging but stubborn  king of Troy, Priam, contributes to the destruction by heeding to a superstitious priest rather than to his wise sons. When Hector  tells his father not to attack a retreating Greek army, Priam  refuses to listen, and finds himself enduring what "no father has  ever undergone": the awful shame of seeing a dead Hector being  dragged by Achilles' chariot. Later, when Paris asks Priam to  burn down the abandoned wooden horse, which the Greeks pack with their men and leave outside Troy's walls, the king is once again  guided by the words of a foolish priest.

Petersen tells this story through violent scenes of blood and  gore, a fact that makes it unsuitable for under 18s to watch  (though one notices that Chennai's cinema halls hardly seem  bothered by such censor certification). Midsection lassitude and  no out-of-the-way technological marvels make "Troy" a rather  mediocre spin of reels. But, yes, for those fans of Brad Pitt,  this work may just about be a rare opportunity to see him bronzed  and chiselled as the camera lavishes almost undivided attention  on this star.

(This review appeared in The Hindu dated June 25 2004)

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