The larger-than-life action opens in 1200 B.C. King Agamemnon (Brian Cox of "The Glimmer Man") leads his army out to confront Triopas (Julian Glover of "For Your Eyes Only") on the field of battle. Agamemnon is an avaricious, warmongering opportunist. Triopas suggests Agamemnon and he avoid needless bloodshed by pitting the best of their best against each other. This amusing prologue shows the womanizing Achilles as the greatest warrior of his day, a "Rambo" of antiquity, who can whip any adversary. In his first, on-screen scrap, Achilles takes down an imposing Goliath-like opponent who makes our protagonist appear puny by comparison. Size counts for little, because the smaller Achilles displays his agility in slaying his adversary with a single blow! "Perfect Storm" director Petersen choreographs the action sequences with considerable flair and imagination, thanks in part to veteran James Bond stuntman Simon Crane.
The hand-to-hand combat appears not only believable, but also the actors wield their swords, shields, and spears with credible ferocity. Later battles qualify as more than just aimless mob warfare with splendidly clad extras roughhousing it with their counterparts. Watch the way Achilles and his mercenaries cover themselves with their shields to repulse wave after wave of arrows. The participants wield their armor with as much savvy as their swords and spears. Meantime, the dialogue scenes that intersperse the gritty action are just as memorable. The theme of immortality pervades this fine example of an ancient world epic. Ultimately, anytime Hollywood handles ancient history, the dialogue possesses an ersatz quality, but the lines here are insightful.
Indeed, Homer’s classic “The Illiad” inspired this illicit romance that prompted this war. Anybody who survived the 1960s should remember the classic Greek sagas such as "Jason and the Argonauts" (1963) and "Clash of the Titans" (1981). Every action on Earth generated corresponding action in the realm of the gods with Zeus lording it over his supernatural peers. "Troy" ignores the gods but doesn’t rank as a lesser effort for this neglect, though one can imagine how many more millions of dollars and minutes of time inclusion of the gods might have required. Generally, scenes with the gods serve to clarify terrestrial conflicts and clue us in on what we might have missed on Earth.
One of the shortcomings lies in the source material and its lack of explanation. For example, audiences not familiar with Trojan mythology might have a difficult time understanding why an arrow through Achilles' ankle would prove so fatal. Petersen and Benioff scale down the action to mortals-only, and "Troy" looks as close to what could have happened if it happened. The beachhead landing (lensed in Mexico) emerges as the ancient equivalent of the sixth of June, D-Day landings in Normandy in World War II, with an armada of oar-driven ships crowding the sea from horizon to horizon. You finally get to see the famous Trojan horse in the final 45 minutes. Ace lenser Roger Pratt gives "Troy" a big-screen magnitude with his awesome long shots of virtually anything beyond arm's reach. When the opposing armies march against each other on the level lands in front of Troy, the spectacle is breathtaking in its scale.
Although Petersen and Benioff have tampered with the venerable plot, the action is worth-watching from fade-in to fade-out. Achilles emerges as more of a villain, but Hector (Eric Bana of "Hulk") looks like a wrongly slain hero. Paris and Helen emerge as the least effectual lovers in a long time. Naturally, Orlando Bloom wields a bow and arrow. Altogether, "Troy" ranks as a joy to watch!