BY NEIL FAUERSO
TROY FULLY KICKS OFF a summer season unprecedented for its glut, bombast, and glitter. With a budget approaching $200 million, an oiled and supple cast including Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, and Peter O’Toole, and source material rooted in the greatest war story of all time, we have the first truly monstrous epic since The Return of the King. But where The Return of the King was the hysterical, fever dream of geek fantasia, Troy is like the most expensive, deluxe TNT movie of all time. The visuals are eye candy for sure, but in a Las Vegas “recreate the majesty” sort of way, the dialogue delivers glorious clunkers like “men have always been haunted by the vastness of eternity” or “Immortality, it’s yours. Take it!” and the acting has the tender excess of early talkies. Still, Troy passes the crucial and only essential test of this caliber of film—it entertains. For 163 minutes I didn’t look at my watch once.
The story, of course, is very familiar. Paris of Troy (Orlando Bloom) steals Menelaus’s wife Helen, and Menelaus goes to his power-hungry brother Agamemnon, who wants to conquer Troy anyway. Agamemnon launches a thousand ships led under the fiercest of all warriors, Achilles (Brad Pitt), while Troy is defended by King Priam’s (Peter O’Toole) eldest son Hector (Eric Bana). Battles and tears ensue.
What makes Troy so far superior to the bloat of Gladiator or the stultifying, corny pretension of Gangs of New York is its pace. Director Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm, Air Force One, In the Line of Fire) wisely oscillates between showy scenes of melodramatic chatting and pristinely vivid, galvanized battle scenes. The fights, whether massive like the siege on Troy’s walls or small like the spectacular sparring between Achilles and Hector, have a gracefully visceral quality to them without becoming unintelligible. And the dramatic scenes, while drenched in puffery and eyeliner, have a sweet quaintness to them—it’s sort of comforting to see actors who are paid so much money utter ludicrous declarations so seriously.
As for the marquee leads, well, they admirably shed any coolness or posturing and embrace their, gawky, mulleted legends. Brad Pitt, hairless and coated in oil, looks like a cross between a bloated goth rock singer, and a B-actor known for his work in erotic surfer films. Still, he commands a definite presence and menace. His nifty, neck stab one-ups Legolas’s moves for the coolest trick around.
Eric Bana, who seemed cast in lead in last year’s Hulk, has real gravitas despite the rat’s nest of hair extensions that follow him wherever he goes. And Peter O’Toole, though looking like the blue ribbon winner in the septuagenarian beauty pageant, makes a grand return to his stately and magnetic form.
In the end, Troy is a great, silly movie. The sets seem ready to collapse under their opulence and fakeness, the women’s bronzed skin and billowing gowns are the left-overs from Playboy’s historical photo shoot, and the cinematographer cannot help but swoop in and out of the grand creation as if swimming through the splendor. This is the way a movie with this agenda and budget should be like, of old, of the 50s, when they still used models and the men would always don a short leather skirt to appear nobler.