Troy (15)

No place like Homer

Time was when British character actors were handed out the minor parts in Hollywood blockbusters, but now in Wolfgang Petersen's martial epic Troy they're positively running the show, a new one seeming to pop up in every scene. Here's old favourite Brian Cox as Agamemnon, Brendan Gleeson as Menelaus and Sean Bean as Odysseus; there's Peter O' Toole as the venerable King Priam, and Julie Christie as Thetis, the mother of Achilles. The names become less familiar as the cast list scrolls down, but you'll still probably recognise James Cosmo, and Vincent Regan, and, isn't that Eddie Shoestring behind the beard? Yes, it really is Trevor Eve, playing third warlord from the left. Trust the Brits to be shoulder to shoulder with the Americans when there's a war on.

And we haven't even mentioned Orlando Bloom, hot enough to have his name above the title - no skulking in the ranks for him. Bloom plays Paris, a prince of Troy who makes off with the tiger-eyed beauty queen Helen (Diane Kruger), to the chagrin of her husband Menelaus and to the regret of Paris's brother, Hector (Eric Bana), who knows that her defection will drag them all into war. Sure enough, the thousand ships are launched by command of King Agamemnon, to avenge the honour of his cuckolded brother but in reality to seize Troy and expand his empire across the Aegean sea.

The spearhead of his battle-plan is Achilles, an über-warrior already nursing his own legend as the fiercest thing on two legs. That he is played by Brad Pitt is both good news and bad. Bulked out like a boxer, he has a splendidly athletic fighting style that involves a sprint and a balletic kind of sideways leap, enabling him to plunge his sword into his opponent's undefended flank.

Psychologically, however, he's flat. Achilles requires the brooding volatile menace of a Russell Crowe; sulking in his tent, Pitt blondly pouts and preens, but there's not a lot going on behind those surf-blue eyes, and the voice has the same stilted plumminess he affected in Meet Joe Black. It's also significant that Patroclus, whose death provokes Achilles to murderous revenge, is here styled as his "cousin" instead of friend; heaven forbid we should suspect any gay attachment between these strapping dudes.

The script, by David Benioff, is "inspired" by The Iliad, though it takes a wider historical view of the Trojan War than Homer did. Perhaps wisely, Benioff hasn't tried to emulate the high-flown language of the poem, preferring the gnomic esperanto of Hollywood epic: "That man was born to end lives", and "War is young men dying, and old men talking".

It's unfortunate that none of the leads has quite the tone of voice to speak the lines with any authority, but then we're not watching a Wolfgang Petersen movie for the talk - his forte is spectacle, mounted here on a panoramic scale; the Greek fleet in full sail, the distant advance of serried ranks of soldiers, the funeral pyres burning along a beach at night.

Petersen's best film hitherto was Das Boot, which spent most of its three hours-plus entombed within the clammy confines of a German U-boat. Here he shows a contrasting facility for the majestic sprawl of sea and plain. In recent times only Peter Jackson with his Lord of The Rings trilogy has handled the drama of men against landscape so confidently.

And, also in common with LOTR, the battle sequences are breathtaking, a clangorous mêlée of steel and blood and fire. When Achilles leads his agile Myrmidon soldiers off the ship and on to the beach in front of Troy, one can't help being reminded of the D-Day landings in Saving Private Ryan as flaming arrows pour down on the invaders. Later, when the Greeks launch an assault on Troy, the camera makes an aerial sweep along the clashing battle-lines, from which vantage it looks like one termitary of ants swarming over another: the effect is suddenly disturbing. Up close, the hand-to-hand combat is intensely savage.

The wonderfully choreographed duel between Hector and Achilles has the accelerating tension of a championship bout as both fighters thrust and feint, spears and then blades ringing against shields like a clapper inside a church bell; one senses the sheer exhaustion of fighting under armour, and the palpable fear that a single false move could be your last. Eric Bana hasn't yet translated the danger and brutality of his psychotic jailbird "Chopper" Read to an American movie, but he has a grave virility as Hector and carries the foreknowledge of his doom movingly in his sorrowful gaze.

Petersen generally plays to his strengths, and as long as he concentrates on action, Troy is a hugely absorbing entertainment. It's in the quieter scenes that one feels the movie begin to stumble, mainly because there isn't (aside from Bana) a presence strong enough to carry it.

Pitt hasn't the emotional depth or urgency to convince as Achilles, and his love scenes with the captive maiden Briseis (Rose Byrne) feel underpowered. Just as puny is the supposed ardour that brings Paris and Helen together; Bloom and Kruger look as pretty as perfume models - you can picture the billboard, "Troy" by Calvin Klein - but there isn't enough spark between them to kindle a camp fire, let alone a kingdom-ending conflagration. It says something when one of the stoutest performances comes from the Trojan Horse. I assume that, like the majority of the cast, it originally hails from this country.

Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
artVoted for by the public, artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried