Cert 15

Peter Bradshaw
Friday May 14, 2004
The Guardian

Picture the scene. You are in the offices of Warner Brothers in Los Angeles, pitching a movie about the siege of Troy to various sharp-suited executives. Perhaps Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt are present also, representing their company, Plan B Films. "OK," you say, "it's a rip-roaring sand-and-sandal, thigh-and-pectoral epic." Approving nods all round. "I see Brad as very much the hero, as Achilles, the glorious warrior who defeats everyone in battle. But it's not just about war; it's about love!" More nods. "The passionate love that goes to the centre of the ancient Greek world, the love that sparks his greatest contest. The love of Achilles - for his friend Patroclus! And I've got a great casting idea: Orlando Bloom is Patroclus. He's Achilles's companion, his comrade, his brother-in-arms, and also let's face it his - acgh." At this moment, at a discreet signal from Mr Pitt, a security guard has entered to grasp you by the throat. Cut to: Warner Brothers exterior. You are flung bodily out into the street to a shout of: "And stay out."
The $200m mega-summer-movie, Troy, in fact, smooths away the more heterodox aspects of the pre-Christian world, while attempting a vaster narrative canvas than in Homer's Iliad. Where the poem shows merely some of the final days of the siege, David Benioff's screenplay, directed by Wolfgang Petersen, compresses the entire 10-year saga into two hours and 40 minutes, and for the big finale absorbs the famous Trojan horse from Homer's great work.
Brad Pitt is the exquisitely contoured Achilles, a highly-strung thoroughbred of a warrior who resents answering to the conceited Greek King Agamemnon, played by Brian Cox, part of the raft of Brit character actors who, according to ancient Hollywood law, play venerable small parts. Peter O'Toole is the Trojan King Priam and Julie Christie is still delicately beautiful as Achilles's mother Thetis. Achilles's friend Patroclus (Garrett Hedlund) is here transformed into his "cousin" - a puppyish young warrior whose enthusiasm is forever being restrained by the wiser, older Achilles.
In the Trojan camp, Orlando Bloom is Paris, handsome son of King Priam. While on a diplomatic mission with his brother Hector (Eric Bana) to the Spartan King Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), Paris falls in love with Menelaus's queen Helen (Diane Kruger) and spirits her away back to Troy as a stowaway, to the horror of Hector who knows that it can mean only one thing: war, and plenty of it. The thousand ships are launched to reclaim Helen and the honour of the Greeks, and the bloody slaughter begins with Achilles sulking in and out of his tent, and finally in the heat of battle leaving the tendon above his heel rashly unprotected. His slave-concubine Briseis (Rose Byrne) is here also promoted to "cousin" status - but cousin to Hector and Paris, so as Achilles's romantic love interest, she becomes almost a Capulet to his Montague.
So much for the story of mortal men. But the second story - or rather storey - is missing: that of the immortal gods above, presiding capriciously over the humans' fates and disputing among themselves. Their presence is entirely excised, perhaps on the grounds that yet more snowy-haired Brit actors, wandering round up to their ankles in dry ice carrying thunderbolts, would undermine the sweaty, ardent seriousness of Brad, Orlando et al down below. But there is a case for cutting the humans and just making it their story: The Passion of the Zeus, performed entirely in ancient Greek.
In single combat, Brad's Achilles has a distinctive fighting style. He favours the long run-up and then a sort of exuberant, tarantella-style jump to the victim's right, knees high, and the sword is plunged round into the opponent's momentarily exposed back. This he does often enough to signal to the enemy, I should have thought, that an armour re-design was needed. Then there is the mass spectacle: the arrival of the Greek armada, the clash of the armies on the plain, the contest outside the walls of Troy, where Hector is to be dishonoured. Peter Jackson's Tolkien trilogy, it has to be said, outclasses these scenes. But it is worth pointing out that in Troy - unlike the pseudo-warfare in Tolkien's fantasy world - important characters with speaking parts actually get killed.
Petersen's movie is competently put together, doesn't drag and manages its unwieldy story reasonably well. The narrative focus is diffuse, granted, more diffuse than Gladiator, where Russell Crowe was the mighty, bulky point of everything.
The problem is milksop blandness in the male leads: Pitt, Bana and Bloom, an insipidity matched by everyone's voice for which the default setting is Anglo-RSC. Pitt's face has a doughy, laid-back good-naturedness - a touch less lean than that super-buff bod below - at odds with Achilles' traditional cruelty, single-mindedness and indeed war-weariness. His expression of anger or disdain sometimes makes him look as if his latte isn't sweet enough, and the downplaying of Patroclus's importance leaves his re-entry into the battle sadly unmotivated. Bloom does well with the callow Paris, humiliated by failing to defeat Menelaus in single-combat. His love affair with Helen strikes no sparks, however, and is marginal to the movie.
As for Eric Bana, this is yet another movie which fails to recapture the glorious danger and virility of his role as the psychopathic criminal Chopper. What might Bana not have achieved if he had been cast as Achilles? Eric Bana, like Crowe, could have brought a little red-blooded Aussie menace and unreconstructed masculinity to the film. As it is, Troy just rolls evenly across the burning Maltese sands, as stately and inert as that famous horse. But nothing's inside.


blandness- nijakość, brak wyrazistości
contour - kontur, zarys; zarysować
executive - menedżer
re-design- zaprojektować na nowo
ardent - gorliwy, żarliwy
armada - armada
armour - zbroja
at odds with- w niezgodzie z
bod = body
bulky - obszerny, ciężki
capriciously - kapryśnie
comrade - towarzysz
conceited - zarozumiały
defeat- pokonać
diffuse- rozprzestrzeniać się , rozpraszać
disdain - pogarda, gardzić
dispute - rozważać, dyskutować
distinctive - charakterystyczny, odróżniający
doughy - ciastowaty, zakalcowaty
drag - ciągnąć się, dłużyć się
exquisitely - wspaniale, znakomicie
exterior - zewnętrzny
exuberant -bujny, pełen życia
fling (flung, flung) - ciskać się, miotać
glorious- wspaniały
grasp- uchwycić, pojąć
insipidity - mdłość, brak smaku
masculinity - męskość
menace - groźba, grozić, zagrażać
milksop - niedołęga
outclass - deklasować, przewyższać (coś lub kogoś)
pectoral - piersiowy
pitch- tu: perswadować, namawiać
puppyish - szczeniakowaty
recapture - ponownie zdobyć, odzyskać
resent - czuć urazę
rip-roaring - szalony, ekscytujący, hałaśliwy
siege - oblężenie
single-mindedness - determinacja, ukierunkowanie na jeden cel
slaughter - rzeź, jatka
spark - iskra; iskrzyć; inicjować
storey - piętro, poziom
stowaway- pasażer na gapę
sulk - dąsać się
super-buff- tu: wypolerowane, wyszlifowane
tarantella - włoski taniec
tendon- ścięgno
thigh- udo
thoroughbred - czystej krwi
thunderbolt - piorun, uderzenie pioruna, grom z jasnego nieba
undermine - podważać
unwieldy - nieporęczny, ciężki; niemrawy
venerable - czcigodny, wybitny, historyczny, zasłużony
virility - męskość
weariness - znużenie


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