There have been many ostentatious interpretations of The Iliad but Troy roots itself in reality instead of trying to tackle both the epic story and all the mythological hullabaloo. As it goes the ancient Greek King Agamemnon (Brian Cox) builds his vast empire by conquering one country after another with the help of the warrior Achilles (Brad Pitt). Yet Achilles holds no allegiance to Agamemnon or any king for that matter fighting only so that he will be remembered as the greatest warrior of all time while also agonizing over the death and mayhem he causes. Agamemnon rankles at Achilles' insolence but soon has other fish to fry. Seems Agamemnon's brother Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson) King of Sparta has had his pride wounded when his lovely wife Helen (Diane Kruger) is spirited away to the great city of Troy by its lovesick prince Paris (Orlando Bloom) who fell for the queen when he was visiting Sparta on a peace mission. The scandalous act creates a chain reaction--unleashing the cuckolded Menelaus' need for retribution Agamemnon's greedy desire to take Troy as his own and Achilles' pursuit of ultimate glory. But Troy's impenetrable walls have been fiercely protected by the Trojan warriors especially the powerful Prince Hector (Eric Bana) for decades--and they are not about to lay down arms now even for as fearsome a foe as Achilles. Let the games of war begin.
The men of Troy have it in spades--flowing hair rippling muscles and dripping testosterone aplenty. As for the main eye candy it's a given Pitt is going to look like a god as the formidable Achilles--but the fact the Greek warrior is tormented as well suits the actor perfectly (remember Legends of the Fall? Who can't?). Pitt handles the pitiful tortured moments better than most as poor Achilles with his six-pack abs struggles with his questionable ethics and actions as well as his place in the world. Troy's other hunk the warrior Hector complements his nemesis Achilles nicely. Played by Aussie actor Bana who audiences might recognize as The Hulk (well the smaller-sized more human version of the big green guy anyway) Hector is just as full of bravado as Achilles yet has a very grounded sense of honor and duty to his country as well as love for his wife Andromache (the billowy Saffron Burrows). Counteracting them both is the infatuated Paris portrayed effectively by heartthrob Bloom who has the unenviable task of being the coward surrounded by heroes. Luckily Paris redeems himself a bit in the end--and we get a brief reminder of Bloom's Lord of the Rings alter-elf Legolas. The veteran actors hold their own among the sweaty he-men including Cox as the megalomaniac Agamemnon and Peter O'Toole as Paris' and Hector's misguided father King Priam who should have listened more closely to his sons. Troy's women do not fare as well however especially German model Kruger as Helen. While certainly beautiful enough to play the part she is relegated to mostly standing around watching the men fight over her without getting the chance to show any of Helen's spunk. Australian ingénue Rose Byrne gets the most to work with as the virginal Troy priestess Briseis who is at first a captive but then seems to be the only one who can calm Achilles down. Lucky girl.
Dubbed possibly one of the most expensive movies ever made (the budget reportedly hit about $200 million) Troy's set was plagued with costly crises: Endless production delays tortuous heat in Malta and Mexico hurricanes wiping out sets and the star actually injuring his Achilles tendon (no joke). Yet for all the film's troubles director Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm) never lets you see it onscreen. Petersen builds the tension heightens the calm before the storm and then deftly brings one of the most legendary wars of all time up close and personal with each of Troy's battle sequences meticulously done--from the all-out beach battle as the Greeks bring their ships to shore to the massive army charge on the walls of Troy to the best of them all--a tragic and an inevitable mano á mano confrontation between Hector and Achilles. If there's any drawback it's the lag time between the battle scenes as the men walk around preparing for battle talk about how to prepare for the battle spend time with their wives/lovers before the battle pray to the gods to help them win the battle and so on. It's unavoidable in a movie like this but much like The Lord of the Rings at least Troy's story comes from a classic source.