"Troy" is one of the most (if not the most) expensive films of all time, with the budget clocking in at nearly $200 million dollars. Yet, Wolfgang Petersen ("Das Boot", "The Perfect Storm") has delivered a rip-roaring, old-fashioned epic that, while not flawless, is still quite entertaining. After watching Oliver Stone's horrendous "Alexander", I couldn't help but appreciate "Troy" even a bit more. The film, based loosely upon Homer (not Simpson)'s poem "The Illiad", begins in 1250 B.C. Helen of Sparta (Diane Kruger, bland and mis-cast) is considered the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris of Troy (Orlando Bloom) is on a mission to Sparta with his brother, Hector (Eric Bana, the best performance in the flick) when he falls head-over-heels for Helen.
Before anyone is the wiser, Paris has snuck Helen aboard their boat for the return trip. Bad move. Helen's husband, Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), is pissed, and gets Agamemnon (Brian Cox) to plan a war with Troy as payback. Achilles (Brad Pitt), an uncontrollable warrior who has no rival on the battlefield, is an uneasy choice by the Greeks to lead them into battle, with Ajax (Tyler Mane), and crafty Odysseus (Sean Bean) coming along. On the other side, Hector prepares to defend his city, irritated to find himself doing so due to his brother's bad judgement. Achilles and the army finds that Troy isn't willing to go down without a fight, and that's when a certain horsie enters the picture.
The film is one of the most costly, and it certainly shows. Petersen stages the often trailer-fied scene of a thousand ships sailing off superbly, while both the massive and more tightly-focused fighting sequences are well-choreographed. Production design is also first-rate. However, I wasn't too fond of James Horner's drum-and-horn filled score, which seemed rather generic and calls too much attention to itself. Reportedly, Gabriel Yared wrote the film's first score and that was apparently taken out either due to Petersen's wishes or a test screening - either way, Yared's work couldn't be worse than the score that's ended up here. Horner's work didn't ruin things for me, but it does take away from the film. I've liked the composers work in the past, but his recent efforts don't seem to be improving any. Pacing is superb - aside from Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" films, I don't remember another nearly three-hour film that went by as quickly as this one does.
The performances are also an interesting mix: Cox chews scenery at a rate I haven't seen in ages, and seems to be having fun doing so; Peter O'Toole and Julie Christie offer elegant supporting efforts, Pitt is suitably edgy, determined and fierce, even if his character is a tad one-dimensional and finally, Bana offers a compelling, intense performance that's the film's best. Less enjoyable are Bloom, whose performance seems whiny, and Kruger, who seems so bland at times that everything else drowns her out completely.
"Troy" has some flaws and the picture takes liberties with the source material, but I think Petersen has crafted a highly entertaining epic that blends drama with a solid helping of thrilling, powerful action sequences. The picture moves along surprisingly swiftly, as well.
VIDEO: "Troy" is presented by Warner Brothers in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film itself takes up the first disc of the 2-DVD set, and that's certainly a good thing, as the 168-minute, action-heavy epic needs all the breathing room it can get on DVD. The picture does show some issues and concerns, but the majority of the film looks great and does show off the film's epic visuals quite well. Sharpness and detail were often excellent, although some of the wide shots could look a tad softer by comparison.
The picture did show some very slight dirt and a couple of specks, but aside from those minor concerns, the print used seemed crisp and clean. Some slight edge enhancement was noticed during a few of the brighter scenes, but it wasn't really a distraction. No pixelation was spotted, either. While some faults were present, the picture looked pretty solid, for the most part.
The film's warm, natural color palette seemed accurately rendered, with no smearing or other faults. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones consistently looked correct.
SOUND: "Troy" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. A megabudgeted epic, the picture also gets a megabudget soundtrack, which remains fairly aggressive throughout much of the nearly three-hour picture. Surrounds kick in especially well during the battle sequences, with the swordplay clearly audible around the listening space. Arrows also whiz overhead, along with other sound effects and ambience. Horner's score, unfortunately, also gets some reinforcement from the rears. The thunderous drums of the composer's work hit pretty hard, and sound deep and loud. Dialogue and sound effects seemed well-recorded, as speech sounded pretty natural and every sword clank was sharply heard.
EXTRAS: A commentary would have been nice, but there's no extras included with the film on disc one. The second disc contains the disc's supplemental features. "In the Thick of Battle" is a 17-minute documentary that looks at the making of the film's giant swordfights. We get interviews with the prop masters, stunt coordinators, the film's director and others. The featurette also offers some nice behind-the-scenes looks at the cameras trying to capture the action in the very intense heat. "From Ruins to Reality" looks at the filmmaker's efforts to create the massive sets. "An Effects Odyssey" looks at the film's use of CGI to create some of the more massive sequences. Finally, we get the interactive "Gallery of the Gods", which takes a look at some of the various ancient Gods that were believed in. There's also the film's trailer. The featurettes included here are good, but I suppose I was looking for a full-length documentary looking at the making of this massive epic.
Final Thoughts: "Troy" may approach the source material loosely and be somewhat over-the-top at times, but it's still a solid mixture of action and drama that I found entertaining. The performances are largely very good, as well. Warner Brothers has provided a fine DVD edition, with good audio/video and a few supplements. Recommended.