U.S. Release Date: May 14, 2004
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Writer: David Benioff
Producer: Colin Wilson
Composer: James Horner, Gabriel Yared (Unused)
Cast: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Peter O'Toole, Diane Kruger, Brendan Gleeson, Rose Byrne, Garrett Hedlund
Running Time: 2 hours and 43 minutes
MPAA Rating: R (for graphic violence and some sexuality/nudity)

Hector of the Gods
by Scott Holleran

Waging war on an epic scale, Wolfgang Petersen's Troy is forgettable—save the performance of Eric Bana as Hector, the movie's true hero. Based super-loosely on Homer's The Iliad, with deviations from the Greek classic best left to scholars, Troy captures enough of Homer's glory to make the action matter.

It is often a weary spectacle. Warrior Achilles (Brad Pitt) and his Greek comrades set out to conquer Troy after Trojan prince Paris (Orlando Bloom) escapes with the beautiful Helen (Diane Kruger) from Greece. It happens that Helen is already married to a king, who takes great offense at losing his bride to a Trojan. An armada of computer-generated ships sails toward Troy to crush the great nation as an act of retribution.

During the siege, alliances shift like sands and so does the plot. Petersen draws distinct characterizations from a formidable cast, which includes Peter O'Toole as King Priam of Troy and Julie Christie in a cameo as Achilles' mother. But David Benioff's script slows the action with clay-footed heroes.

Achilles is modern, which is to say he's tortured, conflicted and plagued by self-doubt. Though Pitt does his best in the role, Achilles' sole motivation is not to be great; he wishes to be seen as great by others. The decision to depict Achilles as ambivalent is deadly; it deprives Troy of any reason to root for the Greeks, who are portrayed as barbarians.

Naturalism dominates the movie, from Pitt's unwashed hair to the notion that the great Achilles would sleep through the movie's most exciting scene, a ferocious counterattack with raging fireballs. This humanization—if one accepts weak as inherently human—of heroes extends to everyone from an ordinary Odysseus (Sean Bean) to a pre-adolescent Patroclus (Garrett Hedlund), Achilles' unremarkable young cousin—everyone except Eric Bana's perfect Hector, Prince of Troy and master of the movie.

Except for a trimmed beard, which distracts from the actor's chiseled face, Hector is every inch Troy's hero. Unlike Achilles, he is as purposeful as he is civilized (and, unlike Achilles, he looks as though he occasionally takes a bath). Unlike Achilles, his motive to kill is self-defense. Unlike Achilles, Hector fights for his values—a loving wife, a child and the fate of the nation he loves.

Mr. Bana's Hector is efficacious at each turn of the jumbled plot; he's as comfortable commanding his troops as he is holding his baby. Because he looks to reality—not to the gods—as his guide, Hector is both a man of reason and a man of action.

Troy teases at something greater than the sum of its parts. The narrative is mildly thought provoking and Petersen packs his punches—fight choreography, majestic scenery, a second wind battle sequence—with skill. War strategy scenes, with O'Toole's King Priam consistently choosing faith over reason, suggest hubris but it is an unfinished theme. Achilles mumbles something about man, not the gods, being what ought to matter but soon he's up and behaving like Attila the Blond-Haired Hun.

Hector is Mr. Bana's breakout role and he acts like he knows it. In a muddled movie based on an epic poem, Eric Bana plays the Trojan prince like he's a Greek god and he offers Troy's greatest thunder.

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