If you needed to see a movie that reinforces your belief that wars are stupid and pointless, then Troy is good for at least that. The characters are all wonton, vain and selfish. While they may come through as interesting historically, or as a study in morals, when reading Homer's epic The Iliad, upon which Troy is loosely based, here they only appear as vapid and unsympathetic.
Agememnon (Brain Cox) is a Greek king who consistently conquers all the city-states around him. His best warrior is the famed Achilles (Brad Pitt) who is seemingly indestructible. When Agememnon's brother Menelaus's (Brendan Gleeson) wife Helen (Diane Kruger) is whisked away by the handsome Trojan Prince Paris (Orlando Bloom), Agememnon finally has his excuse to invade Troy. Achilles agrees to go. Although he is the greatest fighter the world is ever known he has a formidable foe in Hector (Eric Bana), the crown prince of Troy, his honorable father King Priam (Peter O'Tool) and the mighty wall of Troy, which has never been breached. All the rest is legend. There's a big wooden horse, Achilles's weakness is found, and everyone dies except the dandy.
It is hard for an historical film to encompass enough information for those who don't know the story as well while not boring those that do. It's a fine line that Troy stumbles over again and again. Because of its basis in The Iliad it binds it self closely to it in some ways but doesn't give enough information for anyone who hasn't read it. Instead the references are oblique and obscured. While the film opens with a battle of Thessaly implying previous conflicts you wouldn't be able to tell from just this scene that the attack on Troy comes after 8 years of war. In that way the opening scene appears less relevant. They also took liberties with some characters. While Briseis (Rose Bryne) seems to have more time in the spotlight, Achilles's cherished friend and lover Patroclus (Garrett Hedlund), becomes his rarely speaking "cousin."
For a film that felt so heavy-handed, Troy has neither accuracy nor humanity. Our hero, the sleek and pretty Achilles, fights for Agememnon, a dishonorable king and a man Achilles does not respect. And yet, even though Achilles hates Agememnon, he agrees to go to war for him. He cares more for his own glory and the remembrance of his name than either honor or life. His inner turmoil is apparent but never explored; I felt little sympathy for him. Hector, on the other hand, was so loyal and honorable that he provoked much eye rolling. His overabundance of nobility came across on the screen as plain stupidity.
But they are sleekly handsome under their battle grit. And you might want to go just for the numerous Brad butt-shots. The costuming is fun and the Aegean a perfect computer-enhanced blue. Troy is visually engaging but in an unemotional way, despite the subject matter. The music, meant to add feeling, actually detracted from it. The same ululating female voice struck up her clichéd wailing at each predictably intense moment.
Was Troy more engaging than having to slog through The Iliad in a western classics class you hate? Yes. Does it stand tall on its own merit, as a film and as a story? Well...not really.