Brad Pitt Achilles
The main problem with Troy is exactly what made Gladiator work: casting. I suspect that if several of the relatively unknown actors who fill out the minor roles in Troy switched places with the A-listers who were supposed to carry this film, Troy would have had far more emotional depth than it has. Thats because in virtually every instance, the lesser-known actors upstage their better-paid peers, conveying an emotional intensity that goes far beyond anything the Hollywood hunks have to offer. Perhaps the only A-lister I wouldnâ€™t replace is Eric Bana (Hector). But even he is no Russell Crowe.
The person who needed to match Crowes intensity and charisma Brad Pitt (Achilles) is a particularly weak point. Regrettably, he`s also the star. There`s an old saying that you can only lead others as far as you`ve gone yourself. As I watched Pitt struggle to express feelings of anger and grief, I wondered if he had ever really felt such things before, because most of what came across was either confusion or a ramped up parody of those emotions. He didn`t really lead me anywhere. Fortunately, he doesn`t have too many lines or long speeches in this film, so his effect on the overall story is minimized. But that doesn`t cover up for the gaping hole left by his character. This film desperately needs a hero with whom we can identify and root for. Eric Bana and Sean Bean (Odysseus) make a valiant effort to compensate for Pitt`s lack, but even though both actors deliver fine performances, two minor heroes does not a movie make.
Visually speaking, Troy leaves nothing to be desired. The time period is recreated beautifully through stunning visual effects, realistic sets, and detailed costumes. With a budget of $176 million, Troy is a film that should look good, and it does. But audiences today are way beyond being wowed by such things. We`ve come to expect them as accoutrements to a good story, not a replacement for it. While I don`t think director Wolfgang Petersen is trying to pass off a sow`s ear as a silk purse here, there`s something about this overall production that rings hollow.
Perhaps that`s because there is so little to cheer for in this film. We have Paris (Orlando Bloom), a selfish young prince who allows his lust (sorry, I mean love) to carry his kingdom into war; Achilles, who is little more than a killing machine; Agamemnon (Brian Cox), a caricature of a petty dictator; Helen (Diane Kruger), who makes a couple attempts at heroism but backs out at the first opportunity; and Priam (Peter O`Toole), a doddering old king who has taken to heeding his soothsayer`s omens instead of his son Hector`s practical advice. We don`t really care about any of these people, because all of them are motivated by greed, lust, a desire for fame, and a half dozen other petty concerns. We go to movies to watch heroes rise above such things, not indulge them. We`re looking for hope, not yet another reminder about the perpetual state of war and conflict humankind has been in since time immemorial.
But perhaps that is the real power of this film`as a cautionary tale about where we will end up if we continue to allow our selfish desires to rule our actions. If you listen closely, you will find numerous lines that convey a not-so-subtle anti-war agenda lurking beneath this story, which happens to be about one of the most fabled battles of all time. Imagine a king who fights his own battles, Achilles says sardonically to Agamemnon right before heading off to war. War is young men dying and old men talking,he says later on, and, Don`t waste your life following some fools orders. Why all of this anti-war talk? Probably because the characters, particularly Achilles, realize they are nothing more than pawns in a game played by kings. War is just personal desires magnified to a national and international level. The best a pawn can hope for in such a game is a valiant death, one that will be remembered for all eternity. But it is a pitiful hope, really, because the one who achieves such a goal won`t be around to benefit from their notoriety. In the end, all that will be satisfied is the individualnity, and then only for a moment. It reminds me of a line Christ once spoke, What is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?