Set 32 centuries ago, Troy is one of the most ambitious films to be released in years.
Based on Homer's classic poem "The Iliad", the film depicts the tale of young Prince Paris of Troy (Orlando Bloom), who spirits Queen Helen (Diane Kruger) away from her aged husband, King Menelaus of Sparta (Brendan Gleeson). Menelaus, in turn, enlists the help of his brother, Agamemnon (Brian Cox), and two of Greece's greatest warriors, Achilles (Brad Pitt) and Odysseus (Sean Bean), in order to secure his wife's return. And thus begins a bloody siege around the walls of the doomed city that will end with the most clever military ruse in history. Despite his misdeed, Paris is backed up by his reluctant brother Prince Hector (Eric Bana) and doting father King Priam (Peter O'Toole).
Surprisingly, none of the performances are particularly stellar. As the inspiring and fearless leader in search of glory, the newly buff Pitt plays Achilles as a brooding hero with only two facial expressions: either a pout or a grimace. Though his love for a Trojan priestess complicates his loyalty, Pitt never lets you into his soul.
Bana overacts in an effort to make the noble Hector the centre of attention, while Bloom is eager as the meek Paris but his skills on-screen remain undeveloped. Unfortunately, there is no chemistry between him and Kruger, who serves as little more than eye-candy and the catalyst for the war; though she can hardly be considered ugly, it seems unlikely her face could launch "a thousand ships".
The accomplished Bean is sadly underutilized, but it is hoped that his character's decade-long mysterious journey home will be made as a sequel. The only standout is Cox, who plays the arrogant and ruthless Agamemnon.
David Benioff's screenplay takes a realistic approach to events, omitting the interfering and petty gods which would only clutter the narrative, as well as the prophecies which would give away the fate of many of the principals. While he makes use of the spirituality and superstition of the ancient cultures, he offers little of their customs and rituals. It is important to note that he also condenses the 10-year war into a matter of weeks. Though Benioff tries hard to develop the story like a Shakespearean tragedy, he lacks the Bard's poetry and emotion.
The costumes, meanwhile, are incredibly detailed and impressive, so much so that they outshine the unimaginative art direction. Composer James Horner's score is also cliched, and relies too heavily on brass.
Director Wolfgang Petersen (who hasn't made a picture since 2000's The Perfect Storm) is unable to capture the magic of other ancient epics. The sheer scope of the battle scenes is overwhelming, but his vision lacks feeling and offers only the occasional breathtaking image.
While the story of Troy may last for all eternity, the film -- like the city -- will be lost to the sands of time. Rating: 5 out of 10.