ninth symphony films - movie reviews

TROY (2004)

DIRECTOR  -  wolfgang petersen

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  epic

LENGTH  -  163 minutes

RELEASED  -  14 may 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  warner bros.


ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $175,000,000
troy - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from troy at

buy the dvd from troy at

an adaptation of homer's great epic, the film follows the siege of troy by the united greek forces.


poster from troy
buy the poster

brad pitt, who plays achilles, had a mishap during the production - he tore his left achilles tendon.


picture from troy

picture from troy

picture from troy

picture from troy


three out of four possible stars

Director Wolfgang Petersen's vivid Homeric spectacle is a brashly entertaining epic whose filmmakers have put the 185,000,000 dollar budget to good use. Strong performances, an unusually smooth script (for action fare), and incredible special effects and costuming seem to overcome those certain scenes where one might question in what decade the film was made. Petersen and his cinematographer actually make use of the "whip-zoom" shot, something quite common in the action films of the 1970's. Instead of allowing the editor to cut from one shot to the next, the cinematographer choreographs the camera to whip in the direction of a specific character, then quickly zoom in for a close-up.

It only happens a few times in this film, but it's certainly an unexpected technique. Though with the overly dramatic score (more on that later...), one might assume that this film was made about thirty years ago, if not for the smashing special effects that infuse nearly every scene. Though it should be said right off that the CGI elements and gigantic sets in no way dwarf the performances, which are, almost without exception, very fine. True to his character's fame, Brad Pitt is truly the star of this film, and gives a performance that should silence even his most harshest critics (the pretty ones always have it hard).

But before one can wax poetic on the performances, the issue of the musical score must be taken into consideration. Chucking a score by Gabriel Yared a mere two months before the opening of the film for one composed in a mere two weeks by James Horner, director Petersen and producers Warner Bros. decided that Yared's work dated the film and was too dramatic. But in viewing the film, Petersen himself seems to have taken a classic approach to movie-making by allowing melodrama to seep into most of the film. Melodrama in and of itself isn't necessarily a harmful addition to a film, but it seems hypocritical to denounce Yared's score for something that the film itself so obviously projects.

If one were to listen to Horner's score by itself, the beautiful vocal compositions would definitely stand out, but as they are inserted into the film, too often the score intrudes on important character moments where intense music just isn't appropriate. For example, during a quiet yet powerful conversation between King Priam (the frail yet venerable Peter O'Toole) and Paris (Orlando Bloom), the music floats in on a thundercloud and sits its substantial weight onto the delicate tension of the dialogue, nearly breaking the dramatic effect of the scene. A score is meant to enhance a film, but it's too often obvious that the score for Troy was a hurried affair.

But forgetting for a moment the intrusive score, it would take an age to properly congratulate every one of the impressive performers in this film. Beyond the main characters featured on the movie poster, Sean Bean's performance as the fabled Odysseus is simply fantastic. Although he is relegated to a supporting role, his performance is constantly strong and compelling and his every scene is a valuable one. Likewise, versatile actor Brendan Gleeson, playing Helen's wronged husband, "Menelaus," emerges as one of the more memorable performers in the film, taking the melodrama and intensity of the script in stride.

In his first major role since last year's disappointing Hulk, Eric Bana's sometimes overly emphasized performance takes some getting used to, but becomes more rewarding as the film progresses. As the doomed Prince Hector, Bana is an appropriate and rugged foe for Brad Pitt's "Achilles." Orlando Bloom, playing Hector's younger brother "Paris," is nearly as beautiful as his lover, Helen, and is an inspired casting choice for the character. Lacking any burly quality, Bloom's delicate features are a perfect canvas to showcase the tortured and sometimes cowardly character's emotions.

Troy's claim to fame though is not so much its male characters, as it is about "the face that launched a thousand ships" and the relationship "difficulties" endured by anyone who's ever been in a relationship. Every character in the film seems torn by his love for a woman (even the widowed King Priam has a "wife" in his love for his city). As Helen, Diane Kruger's face is certainly beautiful, but her performance is such that no one could accuse her of possessing just a pretty face. She's got talent behind that ethereal face. Likewise, Rose Byrne, playing Achilles lover "Briseis," is the recipient of a strong female role and is able to handle the weight of it with ease. The only scrap of questionable casting would be that of Saffron Burrows, whose angular and nearly cadaverous appearance is punctuated by too many tears and too few moments of strength.

Troy is a film that benefits from a talented group of actors being able to rein in a film sometimes at war with itself as to what type of epic its filmmakers intended it to be. By rejecting a "classical" epic score for a more modern and melodious one, director Petersen has made it apparent that he wishes his film to appear as a modern adventure. But in more than one instance, classic epic filmmaking techniques show through the glossy twenty-first century layer (unintentionally comedic cinematographic pans and a melodramatic slant on the dialogue being the most obvious throwbacks). The extensive sets, endless CGI, strong performances, and kick-ass costumes (who doesn't love a man in a skirt?) add up to a tightly wound feature film. Troy is epic filmmaking at its best and while on the long side, it is a massively entertaining adventure.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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