"Troy": Homer's "Iliad" with Some New Twists

The Spartans, led by their greatest warrior, Achilles (Brad Pitt), attack Troy at their city walls. But Achilles is not fighting to revenge their Spartan leader, King Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), or to appease the King's brother, Agamemnon (Brian Cox). Achilles is only interested in having his name forever identified as the greatest combatant in this epic war.

Loosely based on Homer's poem, "The Iliad", "Troy" leaves out any appearances by supernatural characters such as Zeus and Aphrodite. In doing so, some great parts of Greek mythology are sacrificed. For instance, Achilles was put into a scared river by his mother, and made invincible except where she held him by his heel (hence, "Achilles' heel.") However, to include the complexities of Greek mythology would have probably involved making a movie the length of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Luckily here the performances by Eric Bana (Hector), Peter O'Toole (King Priam of Troy) and others, as well as ambitious battle scenes, are entertaining enough to carry the movie.

A war between the two great empires erupts when the young prince from Troy, Paris (Orlando Bloom) has an affair with Helen (Diane Kruger), King Menelaus' wife, and they escape together on a boat with Paris' comrades back to Troy. Unlike in the "Iliad," Helen is not won, but wooed by Paris. Although the jilted King Menelaus is angry, he has reservations about going to war with Troy, but his brother Agamemnon's drive for power convinces King Menelaus that the Spartans can overcome the high walls of the city. Troy, the only rival to Greece, would be a considerable prize. They sail for Troy with a thousand ships, led by Achilles.

As the Spartans attack, Paris attempts to divert the war by challenging King Menelaus for the right to Helen. The two fight with spears and Paris is stabbed, but Aphrodite does not fly down to save him as in the "Iliad." Rather, Paris' brother, Hector, rescues him and kills King Menelaus. Thus, Agamemnon declares war, as Paris and Hector defied the one-on-one rules for the fight.

Neither Spartans or Trojans have completely admirable motives, so it is difficult to decide which empire to root for. Paris acted out of love in bringing Helen to Troy, yet he also crawled for help to Hector when speared by Agamemnon, causing a war between the Trojans and Spartans. And at one point, Achilles decides to leave the Spartans side since he does not want to fight for Agamemnon anymore, but feels forced to take revenge when Hector kills his cousin Patroclus (Garrett Hedlund).

Directed by Wolfgang Peterson (The Perfect Storm), "Troy" features a conspicuous effort to keep the weaponry and dress accurate to the Bronze Age, versus the dialog, which often does not make sense. For instance, why would Achilles listen to Briseis (Rose Byrne), his conquered Troy slave woman, and have second thoughts about war? The Discovery Channel's "Unsolved History" is running an epidsode showing just how accurate in terms of decor "Troy" is. It discusses how some archeologists believe that Homer's "Iliad" was about a real 10-year battle, and that Troy perhaps did exist in present day Turkey. Likely, if a real war took place between Sparta and Troy, it looked like the movie "Troy," but with dialog resembling more closely that of the "Iliad", with or without Greek gods.

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