An adaptation of Greek Homer’s epic poem the Iliad about the Trojan War
War in the Bible
What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer
Brad Pitt … Achilles
Eric Bana … Hector
Orlando Bloom … Paris
Diane Kruger … Helen
Peter O'Toole … Priam
Brian Cox … Agamemnon
Brendan Gleeson … Menelaus
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|Director||Wolfgang Petersen—“The Perfect Storm,” “Air Force One,” “Outbreak,” “In the Line of Fire,” “Shattered,” “Enemy Mine,” “The NeverEnding Story”|
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|Distributor||Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company|
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “From the director of The Perfect Storm… Throughout time, men have waged war. Some for power, some for glory, some for honor—and some for love. In ancient Greece, the passion of two of history’s most legendary lovers, Paris, Prince of Troy (Orlando Bloom) and Helen (Diane Kruger), Queen of Sparta, ignites a war that will devastate a civilization. When Paris steals Helen away from her husband, King Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), it is an insult that cannot be suffered. Familial pride dictates that an affront to Menelaus is an affront to his brother Agamemnon (Brian Cox), powerful King of the Myceneans, who soon unites all the massive tribes of Greece to steal Helen back from Troy in defense of his brother’s honor.
In truth, Agamemnon’s pursuit of honor is corrupted by his overwhelming greed—he needs control of Troy to ensure the supremacy of his already vast empire. The walled city, under the leadership of King Prium (PETER O’TOOLE) and defended by mighty Prince Hector (Eric Bana), is a citadel that no army has been able to breach. One man alone stands as the key to victory or defeat over Troy—Achilles (Brad Pitt), believed to be the greatest warrior alive.
Arrogant, rebellious and seemingly invincible, Achilles has no allegiance to anyone or anything, save his own glory. It is his insatiable hunger for eternal renown that leads him to attack the gates of Troy under Agamemnon’s banner—but it will be love that ultimately decides his fate. Two worlds will go to war for honor and power. Thousands will fall in pursuit of glory. And for love, a nation will burn to the ground.”
Troy. A city. An empire. And now a summer blockbuster.
Homer’s “Iliad” has fascinated readers for a hundred generations, and is considered an indispensable part of a good Classical education. It was written about 800 BC, a mixture of fact and fiction concerning the siege and destruction of Troy 400 years earlier. Proverbs and catch phrases like “Achilles’ heel,” “The face that launched a thousand ships,” and “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” are a permanent part of our culture.
In the 1950s, as a young gradeschooler, I owned an “Iliad for Boys and Girls,” a simplified and slightly sanitized translation that nevertheless contained: the adulterous relationship that sparked the conflict; descriptions of extreme violence; numerous references to the Greek gods interfering capriciously in human affairs; and several Greek-art-style illustrations of well-muscled men, graphically nude except for their armor, fighting to the death. I also remember a very graphic “comic book” version of the story.
It’s not realistic to expect a major movie studio to create a version of “Troy” that’s appropriate for family viewing. If this film would offend you or your children, then avoid it or see it without the kids. You could choose last year’s made-for-TV “Helen of Troy,” although you’ll still be hit with sex, nudity and some pagan supernaturalism which is surprisingly missing from this new version. There are also some fifty-year-old film versions. Or, you could just read the book, or even ignore the story altogether. I must say that, although there’s a great deal of problem material in this new version of “Troy,” the producers and director did show a certain amount of discretion in some areas.
PLOT: Although the various Greek city-states have long functioned as independent nations, King Agamemnon of Mycenae (Brian Cox) has now forcefully united most of them into a federation. Two roadblocks remain before he can fully consolidate his gains. One, the state of Thessaly remains to be subjugated. That’s accomplished by having Agamemnon’s champion Achilles (Brad Pitt) defeat Thessaly’s champion in single combat. Actually, Achilles is a wild duck who only fights whom he chooses, when he chooses. But this day, after being roused in midmorning from a bed he shares with two beautiful nude women, he decides to do Agamemnon’s bidding. With possibly-superhuman quickness and a characteristic jump-move that we’ll see several more times, he stabs his opponent once, and it’s all over.
The second roadblock is that Agamemnon’s brother, King Menelaus of Sparta (Brendan Gleeson), has broken ranks and made peace with the powerful city of Troy, located in what is now Turkey. But this “problem” solves itself when Prince Paris (Orlando Bloom), the son and emissary of King Priam of Troy (Peter O’Toole), not only seduces Menelaus’ wife Helen (Diane Kruger), but steals her away back to Troy. Agamemnon is only too happy to rouse an army from ALL the Greek city-states to defend his brother’s honor, and in the process subjugate or destroy a dangerous enemy empire.
Taking this story seriously (it’s historically accurate to some extent), it becomes an exercise in vicarious sadness over many people’s bad choices. Helen and Paris freely admit that what they’re doing is probably going to get a lot of people killed; but they do it anyway. When Paris’ elder brother Hector (Eric Bana) discovers that Helen has stowed away, he starts to turn the ship around, intending to restore her to her husband. But his concern for the safety of his kid brother makes him change his mind. When the ship arrives in Troy, King Priam too could choose to send Helen away, but he does not.
For a viewer desiring a pure hero to root for, there’s a scarcity of choices here. Hector and Priam are the “least bad,” but they have their faults. On the Greek side, the only fairly-notable character who seems to have positive qualities is Odysseus, also known as Ulysses (Sean Bean); and his screen time is limited.
The main-character setups take over half an hour. From there on, we know that thousands of innocent people are going to die, and that one side will lose the war. I assume almost everyone knows beforehand that Troy loses. The destruction of Troy by Greece, and the similar destruction of Carthage (in North Africa) by Rome a thousand years later, were pivotal events that helped to keep “world power” centered in Europe.
SEX AND NUDITY: Offensive, but could have been worse. There are several scenes of simulated or implied sex. But there’s no genital nudity in any of them, and no female breast nudity, except for some brief glimpses in the opening scene of Achilles with two women. The actors are nude in some of the other scenes of this type, but the camera angles and editing are discreet.
Paris’ and Helen’s behavior is shown in a bad light. We see that actions do have consequences. Far-reaching ones. Paris comes off as weak, despicable and cowardly, not someone to emulate. Aside from the archery, there’s no similarity between Paris and Bloom’s character in “Lord of the Rings.” Achilles and Trojan Princess Briseis (Rose Byrne) share a nonmarital sexual relationship. (By some accounts, the siege of Troy lasted ten years before the Greeks thought up the idea of the Horse, and Achilles was actually MARRIED to the Trojan princess. In this version, the siege seems to last only a few weeks, so any newly-formed relationships are necessarily brief and superficial.) Menelaus is briefly shown kissing a dancing girl at a party in his palace.
In non-sexual scenes, when the women ARE clothed, their attire is usually fairly modest but sometimes shows cleavage. Men’s upper-body muscles are featured prominently. The men wear miniskirt-length garments for battle, but there’s never any “flashing.” Even when a dead warrior’s body is dragged by his feet behind a chariot, his garment doesn’t ride up.
VIOLENCE: Overwhelming at times. The beach invasion scene is a little like a pre-industrial “Saving Private Ryan.” The other mass battle scenes, and the shots of a thousand ships on the ocean, obviously used computer-generated enhancement, but it’s almost impossible to tell where the filming stops and the enhancement begins. In the close-ups, there’s a great deal of “Braveheart” style stabbing and throat-slitting, with a lot of blood. The direction style of the action sequences is a mix of modern and old-fashioned techniques. Almost all movies of this type allow the main characters on both sides of the conflict to somehow “find” each other on battlefields after they each plow through and dispatch a host of nameless, ordinary soldiers.
In this film, not only do they find each other, but the secondary combatants sometimes take a breather, form a circle and watch their champions fight. The language and the acting style (during combat and elsewhere) is sometimes awkward and stilted, other times convincing.
OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE: Since both sides in this conflict are pagan societies, with no consciousness of the true God, there are no curses except those meant as a literal invoking of the vengeance of one or another member of the Greek pantheon of gods. There are a few other crude expressions: a couple of uses of “whore” and “bitch,” and some mild insults.
OTHER CONTENT: I was amazed that the script was carefully written to AVOID any explicit teaching that the Greek gods were “real.” There’s NO reference to Achilles’ mother Thetis dipping him as a baby in the river Styx, making him invulnerable except for the undipped heel by which she held him. That isn’t authentic Homer anyway, but a later legend. Homer said Achilles’ weakness was his pride. Later authors said it was his love for a Trojan princess. Still later authors (first century AD and onward) said it was the heel.
In this film version, we get all three; but the heel thing is kept vague. After fighting his way through nearly the entire film with nary a scratch on him, Achilles is finally shot in the heel and then several times in the chest. He pulls out the chest arrows, but not the one in his heel. Then, he slowly dies from an unspecified combination of those wounds. (By the way, there’s a strong possibility that the myth of Achilles’ heel is a pagan corruption of the prophecy of Jesus found in Genesis 3:15.)
Many people superstitiously refer to signs and omens, but we never see “the gods” clearly intervening in the conflict. Achilles desecrates the temple of Apollo and kills unarmed priests, but there are no immediate supernatural consequences. The only content in the film that strongly suggests a supernatural element is Thetis (Julie Christie) telling Achilles that if he stays away from the war, he’ll have a family but will be forgotten; if he goes and fights, his name will be remembered, but he will die. He goes, and it turns out that her “prophecy” was right. But maybe she’s just a worried mother and a good guesser. Even astrologers like Jeanne Dixon guess right once in a while.
In the sacking and burning of Troy, there’s no obvious footage of women and children being harmed. The only threatened harm to a woman is when the Greeks attempt to rape, and later attempt to kill, Princess Briseis. In both cases, Achilles comes to her rescue and kills soldiers from his own army.
When the film is over, you may be left with a number of topics to think about or to discuss with your family and friends. Two empires fought each other for mixed motives of political power, supremacy, greed, honor, and vengeance. World history is filled with similar events. Until Jesus returns, there will always be wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6), and the unimaginable human misery that war creates.
Yes, “Troy” is thought-provoking. But anyone who’s sensitive to this type of content is better off to avoid this film and to stay sensitive, rather than become hardened.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Heavy
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.