By Joe Lozito
I never thought I'd say these words, but "where is The Rock when you need him?" Brad Pitt is so miscast as Achilles that he brings to mind sword-and-sandal debacles like 1963's "Cleopatra." Epic Hollywood duds so campily bad that you went to see them solely based on how bad they were. I can recommend "Troy
" only on those merits. You should see how bad this film is.
It's not bad the way "Van Helsing" is bad. It's coherent at least. But only barely. Its special effects are pretty, and it has a cool soundtrack (though it's over-used). But boy is the writing terrible. I mean, terrible. I know its script, by David Benioff, is only supposed to be "inspired by Homer's 'The Iliad'" (whatever that means), but when did Helen of Troy say "Last night was a mistake…I've made a lot of mistakes this week." It's not a horrendous line, but it belongs on a WB series like "Xena: Warrior Princess", not in a $150 million Hollywood epic.
Actually, speaking of syndicated television, I was surprised during "Troy" to earn a newfound respect for Kevin Sorbo. Here I was thinking that he waltzed his way though the role of "Hercules" in the series of the same name. But as Brad Pitt proves in "Troy", it ain't easy playing a god/human. I can see what Pitt was going for. He wants to make Achilles a modern hero. He fails. It's that simple. Pitt isn't a bad actor, but he is an eminently modern actor. His voice, mannerisms, face, everything about him is modern southern California. Every time he speaks, you long for another battle scene. So misguided is this rendering of Achilles that when he is finally shot in the heel (if this is a spoiler then you should run out and see the film immediately) it holds no significance at all. There has been no mention of Achilles' heel previously - even during a missed opportune moment with his mother (a still vibrant Julie Christie).
And don't even get me started on Orlando Bloom who makes me believe that his performance in "Lord of the Rings" was the apex of his career. His Paris comes off as such a whiny priss that not only is it impossible to understand why Helen would fall for him, but he makes you sad that the war started because of this wimp.
This movie is bad. But I will give it one star. And that one star's name is Eric Bana. After surviving the unfairly maligned "Hulk", Bana turns in another thoughtful performance as Hector. So much so that he had my Greek-American friend (admittedly, after four theater-beers) rooting for the Trojans. Aside from Bana, however, the cast is largely forgettable. Sean Bean (another "Rings" alum) does well with the ironically underwritten role of Odysseus, Brian Cox camps it up as Agamemnon, and a decrepit Peter O'Toole barely makes it through the role of Priam.
The female cast members, most notably Hector's wife, try ably to create some sort of humanity in the film, but they are underwritten to the point that I don't even know their character's names. Except, of course, for Helen, who is played by the actress known as "German newcomer Diane Kruger". Thanks to special effects and an extremely literal script, she is the face that actually launches a thousand ships, but she does little else.
Like most Hollywood films today, there are many missed opportunities here. There are ideas about fighting wars for the wrong reasons as well as the classic Greek themes of pride, hubris and, at least according to Pitt's performance, the illegal use of steroids in sports. But nothing holds any weight. In fact, aside from a few references, the gods themselves are largely absent from the film. I don't have a problem with that (though I'm sure the scholars will), but without divine intervention, Pitt decides to make his Achilles driven by fame alone. There is much talk about being remembered and having his name live on for a thousand years. Through no achievement of Pitt's, Achilles will. This film will not.