TROY (2004) – AN EPIC HOMERIAN TALE OF PRIDE, DESIRE AND FATE

Troy was a 2004 historical epic war drama film directed by Wolfgang Petersen based on The Iliad by Homer. It stars Brad Pitt as Achilles, Eric Bana as Hector, Orlando Bloom as Paris and Diane Kruger as Helen of Troy. It covers the abduction of Helen by Paris and the subsequent siege and destruction of the city of Troy by the forces of Agamemnon. Troy is an embodiment of the emotions of Pride and Desire with the realization of fate ultimately driving human lives.

Desire and Lust are the earliest emotions we encounter in this tale. We see the Trojan delegation led by Hector making peace with Menelaus, the King of Sparta. However, Hector’s younger brother Paris, besotted by Menelaus’s stunning queen – Helen, steals away into her chambers as everyone else is celebrating the alliance between Sparta and Troy. Lust for Helen, drives Paris to hide her away in the Trojan galley and without informing Hector until it was too late, they leave for Sparta.

Rage is introduced next, with Menelaus, after being betrayed by the Trojans, running off to big brother Agamemnon, who has been waiting for an excuse to invade Troy for years. He begins assembling an army composed of great warriors from across Greece and led my heroes such as Odysseus, Ajax and Achilles. The relationship between Agamemnon and Achilles, introduces the next emotion – Pride. Agamemnon as warlord of all Greece and Achilles as the greatest warrior in the world, are governed by pride and their egos cannot handle the presence of each other. However, Agamemnon accepts that he cannot win the war against Hector and the Trojan Army without Achilles and his Myrmidons. He uses Odysseus to convince Achilles to join the expedition to conquer Troy.

Achilles, who strongly dislikes Agamemnon, eventually decides to go after his mother Thetis tells him that though he will die, he will be forever glorified. Fate as a character in this epic is introduced at this stage.

In Troy, King Priam is dismayed when Hector and Paris introduce Helen, but welcomes her and decides to prepare for war. Priam, proud of his heroic son Hector, the Trojan archers and Troy’s high walls, is convinced that they can beat off the Greeks. The Greeks eventually invade and take the Trojan beach, thanks to an epic battle won by Achilles and his Myrmidons. Achilles tells his men to sack the temple of Apollo, and wins a brief fight with Hector and his battalion. His men claim Briseis — a priestess and the cousin of Paris and Hector — as a prisoner afterwards. He is angered when Agamemnon spitefully takes her from him, and decides that he will not aid Agamemnon in the siege. Pride and Ego govern both men at this point and a tragic tactical error is made by both men.

The Trojan and Greek armies meet outside the walls of Troy; during a truce, Paris offers to duel Menelaus personally for Helen’s hand in exchange for the city being spared. Agamemnon, intending to take the city regardless of the outcome, accepts, while planning to betray the Trojans after his brother has killed Paris. Menelaus wounds Paris, causing him to cower behind Hector. When Menelaus attempts to kill Paris despite his victory, he is killed by Hector, causing Agamemnon to attack Troy in rage. In the ensuing battle, Hector kills Ajax after a brief duel and many Greek soldiers fall to the Trojan defenses with Achilles and the myrmidons watch from a distance during the battle. The Greek army loses any semblance of formation and are slaughtered by the Trojan archers and their hoplites.

On Odysseus’ insistence, Agamemnon gives the order to fall back. In the camp after Ajax and Menelaus were cremated, Agamemnon and Odysseus argued on why they lost the battle and come to the conclusion that they need Achilles to help them win the war. Agamemnon had given Briseis to the Greek soldiers for their amusement, but Achilles saves her from them. Later that night, Briseis sneaks into Achilles’ quarters to kill him; instead, she falls for him and they become lovers. Achilles then decides to leave Troy, much to the dismay of Patroclus, his cousin and protégé.

In Troy, despite Hector’s objections, Priam orders him to retake the Trojan beach by daybreak and force the Greeks home – here pride now takes over Priam and the Trojans; the attack unifies the Greeks and the Myrmidons enter the battle. Hector duels a man he believes to be Achilles and kills him, only to discover it was actually his cousin Patroclus, who was fighting Hector, disguised as Achilles. Distraught, both armies agree to stop fighting for the day. Achilles is informed of his cousin’s death by Eudorus and vows revenge after striking Eudorus. Wary that Achilles will surely seek Vengeance, Hector shows his wife Andromache a secret tunnel beneath Troy; should he die and the city fall, he instructs her to take their child and any survivors out of the city to Mount Ida.

The next day, Achilles arrives outside Troy and challenges Hector. Hector says his goodbyes to his loved ones, including his wife and son. The two duel outside the gates with Hector putting up a good fight at first, but he is slowly worn down and Achilles lands the killing blow. Achilles then drags his corpse back to the Trojan beach as vengeance for the death of Patroclus. Priam, in disguise, sneaks into the camp and implores Achilles to return Hector’s body for a proper funeral. Ashamed of his actions, Achilles agrees and also states that Hector was the best he had ever fought. He allows Briseis to return to Troy with Priam, promising a twelve-day truce so that Hector’s funeral rites may be held in peace. He also orders his men to return home without him after apologizing to Eudorus for striking him. Here fate drives his actions as he could have left too as he has achieved fame with his victory over Hector but he decides to wait for the war to be over.

Agamemnon declares that he will take Troy regardless of the cost. Concerned, Odysseus concocts a plan to infiltrate the city. After seeing a carving of a horse by a Greek soldier, he has the Greeks build a gigantic wooden horse as a peace offering and abandon the Trojan beach, hiding their ships in a nearby cove. Despite objections from Paris who requests for it to be burned down, Priam orders the horse be brought into the city after Archeptolemus, Priam’s priest, views it as a gift intended for calming the gods. Fate yet again drives the actions of those concerned.

A Trojan scout later finds the Greek ships hiding in the cove, but he was quickly shot down as he was about to alert the city. That night, Greeks hiding inside the horse emerge, attacking the sleeping Trojans by surprise and open the city gates for the Greek army, commencing the Sack of Troy. While Andromache and Helen guide the Trojans to safety through the tunnel, Paris gives the Sword of Troy to a young boy named Aeneas, instructing him to protect the Trojans and find them a new home. Agamemnon kills Priam and captures Briseis, who then kills Agamemnon using a concealed knife in her hand. Achilles fights his way through the city and reunites with Briseis after killing the two Greek soldiers. Paris, seeking to avenge his brother, shoots an arrow through Achilles’ heel, the one part of his body where he is mortal and then several into his body. Achilles extracts all the arrows but the one in his heel. He then bids farewell to Briseis, and watches her flee with Paris before dying as was fated. In the aftermath, Troy is finally taken by the Greeks and a funeral is held for Achilles, where Odysseus personally cremates his body.

Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy is truly an epic creation but it falls short of being a masterpiece. It lacks characters to root for – identifying heroes and villains right from the start. None of the characters are delved into deeper. Agamemnon is simply a vain and arrogant king who has won battles through the might of Achilles; Achilles the mighty killing machine who lets his ego take hold of him when his fellow Greeks need him the most; Hector, the perfect son and general who can’t make the simple strategic decision of returning Helen back to Menelaus and Priam, an old fool who believes in his priests more than the advice of the strategic genius, which is his son.

Diane Kruger looks the part of Helen of Troy but a beautiful piece of wood could have done her part, based on the expressions shown by her during the movie. Her role in the movie, despite being the cause of the war, is to be a beautiful piece of art. Orlando Bloom plays the part of Paris well as an immature fool deluded by lust. Eric Bana is solid as Hector while Brad Pitt pulls off the character of Achilles well, as long as he needs to look menacing and handsome as a God. However, when it comes to expressing emotions, he is not allowed to express the range he most definitely has, in the movie.

JAY’S VERDICT

Watch Troy for its magnificent sets, excellent battle sequences and epic sword fights. Avoid if predictability bores you.

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