Troy review

It may have a reputation as dusty, dreary literature, but the adventures of Achilles, Hector and Paris have resonated throughout history. So much so, they are usually seen as history themselves, even though the story of Troy is probably as reliable as tales from Mount Olympus. Even if you're vague on the story, you'll know some of its symbols — that wooden horse and the face of Helen that launched more ships than a sea of champagne.

If the sight of men in skirts and sandals appeals, Troy should be himbo hysteria, with armies of beefcake battling each other for the honour of the fair maiden. In fact, Wolfgang Petersen's production is quite hilariously homoerotic, it's so endowed with straining muscles and swinging swords. Brad Pitt buffs up for the occasion, looking like a surfer who's misplaced his board. In some ways he is perfectly cast as Achilles' man-who-has-it-all and he makes it look easy. The problem is Brad is so beautiful that Achilles is prettier than Helen herself.

While most of this largely fair-haired international cast look other than Greek, Eric Bana as Hector at least looks he might have made an appearance on some ancient pottery. Fellow Aussie Rose Byrne takes the stock character of the slave who falls for her master and makes her believable too. Orlando Bloom plays against type as snivelling Paris, while the remainder of the cast are Shakespearean actors slumming it, most notably the ever-imperious Peter OToole. While all the other performers posture (in the case of Bana quite convincingly), OToole actually acts and you find yourself wishing for the next time he'll wander by.

In the end, the problem with Troy is Troy itself. So much of it is set in the city and surrounds, it literally leaves the story nowhere to wander. So the viewer is stuck on a beach for two hours while a beautifully-choreographed bloodbath goes back and forth, until someone comes up with the crazy idea to hang out in a wooden horse.

Director Wolfgang Petersen likes a good blood and guts battle and particularly enjoys carving up his cast in a computer-induced frenzy like this. Troy ends up as Gladiator gone berserk with a sea of swashbuckle, though it doesn't have the emotional weight of that work. But in the end what matters is the muscle. It's not about Achilles' heel, but Brad Pitt's calves and how they look in a tunic.

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