TROY: Blu-Ray (WB 2004) Warner Home Video
There is one minor distinction to be made between director, Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy (2004) and Homer’s The Iliad from whence its inspiration for this cinematic tale derives. The Iliad was a multifaceted and monumental literary achievement – an irrefutable evolution in the art of storytelling in which ‘the Gods’ play their hand in shaping the integral and pivotal plot points involving mere mortals. Petersen’s movie is merely a flashy old-time sword and sandal quickie (breast plates, toga and laurels, optional), gussied up with $185 million (for which it earned back a whopping $497.4 million), alas, where the will of the Gods takes the proverbial backseat to a good yarn with more than its fair share of concrete and earthly visceral delights. We’ll give it to Petersen. His movie has a lot of territory to cover. The Iliad is its own force of nature, mesmerizing, comprehensive, intellectually wrought, but with action to boot. And while the action here is no problem for Petersen, who handles it deftly and with stylized finesse, the visual medium of the movies has always found it an uphill slog to convey the other ‘intangibles’ that words can so eloquently describe, but actions appear futile to resolve, much less challenge. The screenplay by David Benioff assumes a twofold responsibility; first – to remain loyal to Homer…well, sort of… and second - to chart the recorded history of the Trojan Wars while delving into its complex tapestry of moral dilemmas and mythological characters.
These include the brooding Grecian warrior Achilles (Brad Pitt – good fighter/bad heel), noble Prince Hector (Eric Bana), male beauty cum warrior, Paris (Orlando Bloom – lover, not a fighter) and, of course, the vixen, Helen (Diane Kruger…was this the face that launched…? Yes - exactly!). For the most part, Benioff succeeds where other mere mortals have only dared to tread, but too easily been prone to embracing predictability to a fault. Owing to Brad Pitt’s cache as the name above the title our story opens with King Agamemnon (Brian Cox) conquering yet another principality to add to his already formidable Grecian empire; the lands, excised from King Triopas (Julian Glover) at the hand of Achilles, his most valiant warrior. Achilles slays the rather oafish gargoyle on steroids – Boagrius (Nathan Jones) with one quick slash of his sword. However, Achilles despises the master he serves. Meanwhile, in another part of Greece, Agamemnon’s brother, Menelaus (Brenden Gleeson) is having a pair of nobles to supper; Prince Hector and his brother, Prince Paris – sons of the honorable Priam (Peter O’Toole), ruler of Troy. Known for his prowess with many ladies, Paris is currently having an affair with Menelaus’ wife, Helen of Sparta. After the affair is exposed, Priam brokers a tentative peace with Menelaus. But Paris steals Helen aboard Hector’s sailing vessel. Seizing upon Helen’s defection as a 'good enough' excuse to start another war, Agamemnon exploits the opportunity by engaging Menelaus' armies to help conquer Troy for his own purposes.
However, Troy is not so easily taken. In fact, it proves virtually impregnable. Assuming false reason for Agamemnon’s arrival, Paris woefully miscalculates his one-on-one battle with Menelaus. He is saved from certain death by his brother, who slays Menelaus and sets into motion a series of revenge scenarios that will eventually thrust the fate of Troy into mortal chaos. An adversarial animosity forces a bleak showdown between Hector and Achilles, the latter eventually claiming his victory by dragging Hector's bloodied remains behind his horse back to his camp. Priam, alone and unarmed, approaches the camp by night to plead with Achilles for Hector's proper burial and Achilles - much reformed by the days carnage, and, his steady love for Brisies (Rose Byrne) agrees. During the mourning period, the Greeks devise a more devious method to enter Troy - The Trojan Horse. After the rest of the city has retired for the night, the small commune of smuggled in Greeks emerge from the wooden trophy to unlock the city's main gate, thereby allowing the Greek army to march in and begin its devastating occupation. In the maelstrom of looting, Priam is butchered and Achilles skewered by Paris' skilled archery. Paris and Brisies escape the city through a secret passage and Achilles is given a hero’s burial on pyres.
Troy is an enjoyable enough epic of the ancient world, Petersen, walking the tightrope between drama and action, successfully to perform his balancing act so that neither strain dominates the movie for very long. In terms of casting – Troy is on fairly solid ground. True, Brad Pitt is a tad too pretty in a grungy sort of ‘I’m too sexy for my breast plate’ way. But he provides heightened and unexpected emotional complexity to Achilles. O’Toole and Cox are masterful thespians of the old school who lend weight to their supporting roles. Gleeson is almost as good. Perhaps most impressive is Eric Bana in a sustained and nuanced reading of Hector, who carries a good deal of the emotional ballast. Bana proves worthy of this responsibility. The worst of the lot is Orlando Bloom, too soft around the edges to effectively feign toughness. Does anyone buy that his Paris would be able to slay Achilles; the ultimate warrior of his generation? In the end, Troy possesses more virtues than vices. It’s not Homer. It’s Hollywood. Deal with it and enjoy Troy for what it is – an expertly told and fun-to-watch actioner, with a few introspective moments thrown in.
Warner Home Video’s Blu-Ray delivers breathtaking clarity throughout. This is the ‘extended cut’ of Petersen's theatrical release and includes some 40-minutes of footage never seen by the public then. Aside: having seen Troy in theaters, I can only add herein, that the 40-mins. more makes for some exhilarating introspection, to crystalize the plot and develop these characters more fully. Unlike some ‘director’s cuts’, merely to tinker and tweak scenes already well-resolved, the reinstatement of footage herein makes a considerable difference to the overall narrative structure and arc of the movie and is the preferred way to appreciate all the finery and spectacle that Petersen has wrought. Colors are exceptionally bold and vibrant. Contrast levels are ideally realized. The overall quality of this image is smooth, while sustaining a crisp characteristic with beautifully rendered fine details evident throughout. The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital – no lossless here, but very well resolved and quite aggressive during battle sequences. Extras have all been imported from Warner’s previously released 2-disc DVD and include an audio commentary, several detailed featurettes on the movie’s creation as well as its’ historical/fictional roots. There is also the original theatrical trailer. Highly recommended.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)