Hollywood hues
Timeless classic in modern context
Ervell E. Menezes

Brad Pitt in Troy
Brad Pitt in Troy

IF Biblicals can be revived so can Greek mythology. Hollywood was quick to cash in on the success of Gladiator and came out with Troy, for aren’t we more than vaguely familiar with the Trojan Horse, the Achilles heel and of course Queen Helen whose face launched a thousand ships. What’s more, Troy like Gladiator is updated with today’s thinking and the right mix of form and content gives the viewer not only a visually satiating magnum opus but also reiterates the futility of war and the shedding of rivers of blood.

Based on that timeless Homer classic The Illiad, it has a vast canvass. "Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity," is one of the opening lines. They are also obsessed by valour and power. It was a time when ancient Greece was torn by long-standing feuds between royal clans. And even though they swore by their gods, they didn’t hesitate to go to war at the slightest provocation.

So when Paris (Orlando Bloom), the prince of Troy, elopes with Helen (Diane Kruger), the lovelorn Queen of Sparta, the Greeks decide to go to battle with Troy whose ageing King Priam (Peter O’Toole) put all his faith in his elder son Hector (Eric Bana). And so begins the story of these warring clans. How the Greeks launched a thousand ships in an effort to take Troy and how Achilles (Brad Pitt) played a major part in the proceedings.

But the strength of the film is a simple straightforward narrative, doing away with the frills and frolics and concentrating on the bare essentials and here’s where first-timer David Beinoff must be commended. Then of course, it is German-born director Wolfgang Petersen of The Never Ending Story fame who has only to hone his protean skills with dealing with epic subjects. The launching of the Greek fleet is impressive. So are the battle scenes. But he is also not short on emotion and Priam’s meeting with Achilles is probably the high-water mark.

When a film is 160 minutes long, it is difficult to maintain one’s attention span. But some cute lines and an assortment of characters help. Of course, some are paper-thin. Achilles is too perfect while Paris is more of a wimp but it is Hector who is the most rounded character and of course Priam, a role cut out for veteran Peter O’Toole. But Helen is weak, scarcely the woman Homer and Christopher Marlowe idolised. Diane Kruger fails to bring her alive, the other princess of Troy played by Rose Byrne is more credible.

"Your glory walks hand in hand with your doom, and I shall never see you again," Achilles’ mother (Julie Christie) tells him. How true. So is the anti-war line "war is young men dying and old men talking." It is lines like these that sustain it in its weaker moments.

May be it’s a wee bit long but considering the immense spectacle and the basic truths it sets out to expose — power, greed, glory and war — it is well worth watching.