Thursday, May 13, 2004

Review Of "Troy"

***Spoilers beware***

First of all, I am happy to report that it is TONNES better than Van Helsing -- though I'm still a big Hugh Jackman fan no matter what crap he stars in.

For starters, here's a link to the official movie website:

Troy @ Warner Brothers

Second of all, this is easily one of the best film experiences of my entire life. 3 hours passed by in an adrenaline-filled blur, and I definitely include it on my top 5 list of all-time favourites. "Gladiator" doesn't even come close anymore.

You can read about the plot on the above site. What I'd like to discuss further are my impressions of its layout, cast, and various other details.

Cinematography and locales are magnificent. Shot along a coast in Malta, gigantic sets were painstakingly put together, with computer-generated effects added only when necessary for sweeping angles and the illusion of vast empires and their tens of thousands of troops engaging in epic battles. Warm golden hues and bright blue shades permeate throughout. Kudos too to the makeup and costume teams for making many of the actors look their best ever.

Wolfgang Petersen ( Das Boot, Air Force One, The Perfect Storm ) expertly directs his crew, giving Ridley Scott ( Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, the Alien trilogy ) a major run for his money. Movies revolving around the legendary Romans and Greeks of yore were intimidating undertakings back in the 50's and 60's, with only a few ( Spartacus, Cleopatra, Ben Hur ) winning accolades. The genre fizzled for another 30 years before being revived in grand splendour by Scott. And now, "Troy" not only follows in "Gladiator"'s footsteps, it even surpasses it.

I can't find anything not to like about this film. But a vital part of my enjoyment comes from watching the perfectly cast actors -- Brad Pitt as the feared Greek warrior Achilles, Eric Bana as the Trojan prince Hector, Orlando Bloom as his younger, romantic / foolhardy brother Paris, Peter O'Toole as their conflicted father Priam, and Brian Cox as the hated Agamemnon.

Greek mythology is filled with over-the-top drama, but the cast expertly handles all that angst, delivering beautifully measured performances. Cox obviously relishes his role as the villain, while O'Toole's sad pale blue eyes and trembling demeanour bring palpable, heartfelt grief in his turn as a ruler whose imperfect decisions result in the loss of a beloved son. A poignant scene where Priam sneaks into Achilles' tent to plead for the return of Hector's body for a proper burial is excellently executed. Who would've thought O'Toole and Pitt would one day face each other on the big screen, and to such amazing effect? Those short 5 minutes left me in tears.

Bloom, who continues to grow on me, admittedly doesn't have much to chew on, but does his best nonetheless, putting his boyish looks to good use and baring lots of skin as well for a change. He also shares terrific chemistry with Bana, thus the two men are completely convincing as siblings who are tightly knit yet polar opposites. While Bloom excels as the impulsive, lovelorn Paris, Bana practically devours every bit of scenery in his career-making role as the steadfast, courageous and fiercely protective Hector. In fact, at certain points, he eclipses even Brad Pitt.

Now we come to the Golden Boy himself. Not looking a day older than 30, the 40-year-old walking pillar of testosterone gives the performance of his life, sporting shoulder-length wavy blonde hair, loads of cockiness and sexuality, and some gravity-defying moves in exciting fight scenes. True, his skills as a thespian aren't exactly of Oscar calibre ( Bana, however, is a good bet for next year's Academy Awards ), but he does pretty well as far as I'm concerned. Whether standing on a hill with his sword raised as thousands of soldiers cheer, riding off on his chariot with a mildly disdainful expression, or commanding his men that "Immortality -- it's yours. Take it!", Pitt has gone against convention in a totally different manner this time -- rather than playing scruffy parts in edgy classics like "Snatch", "Fight Club" and "Se7en", he now plays up his Greek-god gorgeousness in all its glory. He's never looked more magnificent.

The women in "Troy", sadly, disappoint. Diane Kruger, who was handpicked for the role of Helen -- aka "the face that launched a thousand ships" -- is rather bland. Saffron Burrows plays Hector's distressed wife, but doesn't demonstrate any of the tortured sensuality that was so evident in "Circle of Friends", where she starred alongside Chris O'Donnell, Minnie Driver and Colin Firth, as a status-hungry but ultimately betrayed poor college student caught in an illicit affair with a despicable nobleman.

The only female who caught my attention is Rose Byrne, a dead ringer for Monica Bellucci who plays the virginal Bruseis, later turned Achilles' lover and proverbial "Achilles' heel". Her scenes with Pitt are nothing short of hot-blooded. I haven't seen him generate this much heat with a female co-star since Geena Davis in "Thelma and Louise".

Yes yes, I LOVED IT! :) Wish I could watch it again, but alas, I don't have the time to do so. *sob*

Additional bonus:

If you're a Josh Groban fan, a wonderful surprise awaits once the closing credits roll. He sings the love theme, titled "Remember", a haunting Middle-eastern-flavoured number which shows off his exquisite voice and range, thanks to Oscar-winning composer James Horner( Titanic ). The film's soundtrack is elegantly written and conducted, even boasting a Crouching Tiger-Hidden Dragon-esque sequence where Hector and Achilles fight to the death to the beat of a single drum.

The summer blockbuster season has officially begun! Next up, "Shrek 2" and "Harry Potter: The Prisoner Of Azkaban". Woohoo!

Signing off. And guess what? Auditions for Singapore Idol start on my birthday. Tempted to make my way down to SUNTEC for a peek. Hmmm... :)

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