Loosely based on Homer's work of Greek mythology Iliad, this sweeping epic directed by Wolfgang Petersen - Das Boot, Air Force One and Outbreak - is something of a disappointment. That it contains some spectacular sets, vast battles and a cast that's up there with the best of them, only serves to make the disappointment even more so.
Troy tells the story of the war between the Greeks and Troy; Agamemnon (Brian Cox), the warmongering King of Kings in Greece, has his excuse to invade Troy as Prince Paris (Orlando Bloom) elopes with the King of Sparta's wife (Brendan Gleason and Diane Kruger respectively). Paris' brother, Prince Hector (Eric Bana) is furious that the long-fought peace negotiations with Sparta are in ruins, but stands by his brother regardless, and they ready for battle. And when the Greeks in their 1000 longboats sail, no other than the greatest warrior of Greece is among them, the seemingly invincible Achilles (Brad Pitt)...
All sounds good so far? Well yes, there's all the required ingredients for an epic tale of love, betrayal, and brutal bloody battle. So why doesn't it work? Well despite the stunning cinematography, effective use of CGI (which is still sometimes obvious as special effects but on the whole executed to a high standard) and the stellar cast, Troy plays out like something of a damp squib.
The main issue is the script. Few of the characters seem in any way fleshed out, little time is spent developing relationships, and the end result is something that feels rushed and underdeveloped with cardboard cut-outs for characters. Brad Pitt just doesn't seem right as Achilles; he's got the arrogance and the looks of the anti-hero, but he lacks the required charisma to pull it off. Orlando Bloom is even weaker in his role, and proves here that he's just not that good an actor (though the character Paris is supposed to be a coward), and Eric Bana isn't really allowed to shine in what should be a strong role. The remaining characters may try their best, but the material they have to work with lets them down. Cox's performance is perhaps the best of the bunch - if a little over the top - and he has some fire about him when everyone else looks like they're drowning.
The battle scenes are curiously devoid of impact and emotion: whilst a couple of the individual fights are good (Hector vs Achilles being one of the better ones) there are huge battles here, but they're all found wanting against the opening battle of Gladiator, lacking the immediacy and grittiness and having an altogether “glossy” feel to them.
Added to this, the musical score really doesn't help. In a movie which is trying so hard to be an epic in the biggest sense of the word, the score is annoyingly misplaced and out of tempo with some of the onscreen action, which quickly becomes grating.
Overall Troy is a disappointment, and even more so given it could have been so much better. Iliad fans will likely be annoyed by the changes to Homer's work (and there are many), and combined with the inherent flaws in script and direction, we have a movie that, put simply, just isn't very good.