Sunday, August 21, 2011

Troy (2004) - Director's Cut

Image from IMP Awards

Troy (2004)

Since this is a fairly mainstream and well known film I'm going to make this quick. Director Wolfgang Peterson released a very compromised version of this film theatrically back in 2004. Based on Homer's 'The Iliad', it told the story of the Trojan War, of the armies of King Agamemnon with the heroic Achilles as his trump card battling against the Trojan armies of King Priam led by his son Hector, and of the war sparked off by Priam's younger son Paris stealing a Queen, Helen of Sparta. It was a historical epic that depicted a massive battle and larger than life characters fighting for territory and power, for personal glory and immortality, and for love and honour - it was grand in scale, epic and operatic.

The original film was certainly well made with magnificent sets and costumes and an impressive cast, but it was marketed on the back of some massive and thrilling battle sequences. As a result the film was heavier on the action than the drama. This version restores many of the character moments while also making it bloodier and more brutal, resulting in a significantly better film than the already pretty good theatrical version. Brad Pitt and Eric Bana are both superb as Achilles and Hector, and the supporting cast including Peter O Toole, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, Rose Byrne and Diane Kruger are all very good (yes, even Bloom).

The storyline ignores the Gods of the source material and is, in my opinion, better for it. I'm not certain how accurate it is as an adaptation - certainly the length of the war is significantly reduced from a decade to what seems like a few weeks - but it works on its own terms. It is broad and theatrical and not very subtle, but it never pretends to be anything more than it is, and the end result is a very satisfying film that is entertaining without being stupid and full of mindless action. The re-edited score, sadly, is still severely lacking and remains the main weakness of the film, but it isn't too offensive - just bland and derivative.

If you hated the original this version won't change your mind but if you thought it was passable but could have been better, then the Director's Cut makes the film worth revisiting. For people who've never seen the film before this is the version to watch, and if the genre is of even a passing interest then you can do far worse than spend three hours watching an excellent interpretation of an ancient tale.

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