Picks and Pans Review: Troy

updated 05/24/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/24/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Peter O'Toole, Julie Christie, Diane Kruger, Brian Cox, Sean Bean
ACTION-ADVENTURE

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Although Troy isn't as wooden as the giant horse the Greek army used to invade the titular city 3,200 years ago, neither does it gallop along with speed or grace. Rather, this war epic adapted from Homer's Iliad and brawnily directed by Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm) moves along in herky-jerky fashion, taking lengthy pauses to allow us to admire its imposing sets, its splendid digital effects (look, it's a thousand ships!) and Pitt's mighty muscles. With its acres of sword-wielding, sandal-shod extras, Troy may echo Gladiator, but it never achieves the sweep or power of the earlier film.

Pitt portrays Achilles, Greece's greatest warrior, almost as an antihero. It's something of a puzzle why the film revolves around this guy. Achilles has an attitude problem: "He's as likely to spear me as fight for me," complains Agamemnon (Cox), the empire-building king who jumps at the chance to attack Troy after one of its princes, the impetuous Paris (Bloom), runs off with the luscious Helen (Kruger), Agamemnon's sister-in-law. So why does a sullen and reluctant Achilles agree to lead the charge against Troy? Because, the film would have us believe, much like those average Joes who today line up to be on reality TV shows, Achilles is after the supposed immortality of celebrity. This, despite his mother (Christie) having warned him—spoiler ahead—"Your glory walks hand in hand with your death."

Pitt is blond and bland. He excels at the action scenes, fighting acrobatically and with gusto, but he lacks authority and emotion in his dramatic scenes. Proving more engaging are a dynamic Bana (The Hulk) as Hector, Paris's brave older brother; a self-flagellating Bloom as Paris; and a sorrowful O'Toole as Troy's king. (R)

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