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‘Troy’ flawed but worthy summer flick

Brad Pitt stars as
Brad Pitt stars as "Achilles" in Warner Bros. Pictures' epic action adventure "Troy," also starring Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom.Brad Pitt stars as "Achilles" in Warner Bros. Pictures' epic action adventure "Troy," also starring Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. EntertainmentCourtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment / The Spokesman-Review)
Dennis Swennumson north central

“Troy” Rated: R

The new movie “Troy” can be examined from two angles: as the latest adaptation of Homer’s epic poem “The Iliad” or one of the first manufactured mega-blockbusters of the season. Fans of the source material will probably scoff at this new version, as the filmmakers take so many liberties with the story that the “Inspired by Homer’s The Iliad” credit at the end of the film is just barely legitimate.

But “Troy” wasn’t made to be a companion piece to high school English curriculum. It’s a spectacle with all requisites fulfilled — an overblown budget with big-name stars, huge battle sequences and loads of special effects. “Troy” is a worthy summer film on all counts. It deserves its huge opening weekend take, and it deserves to quickly fade from memory, lost in the summer movie shuffle.

For those rusty on their mythology, the Trojan War was waged after Trojan prince Paris (Orlando Bloom) stole Spartan Queen Helen, played by Diane Kruger, from her husband Menelaus, brother to Greek ruler Agamemnon. The Greeks mobilize their army, including the greatest warrior of the time Achilles (Brad Pitt). Waiting in Troy for the onslaught are King Priam (Peter O’Toole) and Prince Hector (Eric Bana), disapproving of Paris’ actions but at the same time realizing Agamemnon’s greed The war will be fought for glory and certain immortality more than for the doomed marriage.

A lot of the focus of “Troy” has been on the cast, with Brad Pitt naturally getting most of the attention. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with Pitt’s performance, but unfortunately his celebrity exceeds his acting. In some scenes it just feels like Pitt running around playing dress-up rather than actually playing a character.

There’s a grave casting flaw in the role of Helen. Newcomer Diane Kruger does have the beauty of the face that launched 1,000 ships, but the actress seems to possess more looks than talent. These problems become increasingly apparent when compared to the great acting provided by Peter O’Toole as the beloved king, Eric Bana as a soldier torn between his patriotism and his family, and the megalomaniac hunger of Brian Cox’s Agamemnon.

Director Wolfgang Petersen does have a lot to be proud of. There are some awe-inspiring shots of the warring landscapes, the execution of the Trojan Horse plot element is admirable and the man-to-man fight scenes are choreographed with great detail and rhythm. Unfortunately, some of these fight scenes occur at all-too convenient times. The idea that two combatants would be able to adequately duke it out in the middle of a battle between two huge clashing armies is just ridiculous. On the dramatic side, screenwriter David Benioff (who wrote the novel and script for “25th Hour”) has penned some horrible dialogue exchanges that carry all the melodramatic weight of a daytime soap opera. He saves himself in the movie’s best scene, when a grieving King Priam confronts Achilles. It’s an introspective meditation on the complex relationships between enemies.

Throughout the film’s 160-minute runtime a problem is apparent, for every one of the film’s triumphs there is an almost equal flaw. This doesn’t prove to be the film’s own Achilles heel. It just hinders the movie from achieving true cinematic quality. Of some of the recent Hollywood epics, the failed Tom Cruise Oscar campaign “The Last Samurai” and the lame box-office flop “The Alamo,” this film is much better. “Troy” is a flawed movie that doesn’t really offer anything we haven’t seen, but it’s more than adequate for summer movie fare.

Grade: B

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