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Troy

Well, this was magnificent, spectacular, beautiful, vast, slightly sprawling, star-spangled and hugely enjoyable. I wasn't sure what to expect: a special-effects fest with huge name cast utterly wasted; or Braveheart with dolmades and kleftiko; but my attention was engaged from the first moment and acknowledged throughout with changes of pace, some good acting, jaw-dropping moments and excellent cinematography giving the cgi chaps a run for their money

The text-heavy scene-setting script was off-putting in the extreme, as there were peoples and places that felt important but were not sufficiently familiar to retain... would it matter? Was I lost already?

Face rings a bell
Brad Pitt leads the cast with his portrayal of Achilles, whose name we do indeed remember 3200 years later, just as a lady-in-the-lake-like cameo appearance from Julie Christie as his mum had prophesied. My sketchy familiarity with the Iliad means I was probably carried along by the pace of the action rather than the honesty of the plot or characterisation. But various campanologious names came into and out of the narrative, such as Agamemnon, the firey king of the allied Greeks, and Priam, King of Troy, played with strange watery eyes by a rather pleased with himself Peter O'Toole.

I think I was expecting more classic lines of dialogue, but noticed only sweeping historians talking through the main players. Eric Bana's Hector was believeable, and his character was probably the person who most understood what was happening; his loyalty to Troy was not in question (that's why he was so enraged at Paris' foolishness, lead the Trojans into battle, and took on the champion role twice) but he also recognised that blind reliance on the gods and on Troy's impregnability were not where the smart money was being placed.

I do, having glowed favourable towards this film, have a criticism. I won't be buying the music soundtrack. I felt it was intrusive in places, in other places it was working hard to make up for the lack of tension or emotion in the scenes. I think it fell into the same gorganzolant category as the music in LotR3.

I also have two questions, and I think they are both worth consideration.

Question One: Paris launches a thousand problems

The 'face that launched a dozen paddleboats'; oh dear. Certainly the newcomer playing Helen (Diane Kruger) is gorgeous enough; her face is splendid, and the rest of her holds fascinations, too. And while it's explained that she is the unwilling wife of the Spartan king, and is not appreciated, I am left thinking that Paris must have been several baguettes short of a escargot sandwich to have allowed himself to become so besotted with her. Having risked his life and the alliance by bedding her several times in the palace, he then persuades the girl to come with him back to Troy.

She's sufficiently barking to imagine that the (at least) bivouacian archer from Rivendell is going to provide for her in a stable and life-long marriage. Surely she knows already he's a wife-stealing, immoral, pretty boy lethario with a life expectancy of slightly more than my medium-sized portion of popcorn? But she goes with him anyway. The only possible outcome of thei relationship is for the blood of thousands to atone, as war is inevitable. Knowing what we know about Agamemnon, it's already quite likely, but now there is little option.

I suppose I'm moaning that I wasn't adequately convinced about the love between Helen and Paris. Sexual chemistry? A little. Attraction? Well, they're both pretty. Things in common? Hard to say, except that they both like Paris.

But since it's the raison d'etre, the spindle on which the wheel turns, I feel the script didn't work hard to convince me. Perhaps all it needed was a couple of scenes (when I wasn't being distracted by her nakedness) of dialogue about the way they both understood the implications of their actions, Paris' confidence that Priam would indulge his libido, since he was the favoured son - or something.

Question Two: down at heel
It's the same question that might have been posed about the Passion of the Christ film. My background knowledge of the main character in that film carried me through, past several otherwise unexplained comments and actions. I knew enough before the film started to be able to cope with the assumptions.

But with Achilles, there was a measure of cloudiness... Would it not have helped everyone to have had a few moments flashback as his damp mum remembered the dipping of her baby son in the river that made him so invulnerable? Since his 'invulnerability' gives him a courage and a confidence which leads to his slaughter, could we please have 1000 frames of footage (pardon the pun) to explain his one weakness?

I'm willing to bet that there will be many filmgoers who won't understand the significance of what happens. And that's a shame.

It's not Shakespeare
There may be some who try to compare the walls of Troy with the Battle of Helm's Deep, and in a way they are entitled to do so. Others may look on this as a relation to Dunsinane Wood marching towards Glamis Castle (er, that's not Elijah Wood walking towards Barbara Castle...) Others look at the dangerously flawed Gladiator and see comparisons there.

But I want this to go into another category. This is the study notes version of the story, supplying the broad sweep, the whole picture, the Trojan Wars encapsulated. Now we need to go back to the book (just as we do with the Passion). There must be more to it than this..

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