An epic in the truest sense of the word, Troy is inspired by Homer's tragic poem The Iliad - a mythic rendering of an ancient war fought between Greeks and Trojans. Director Wolfgang Petersen retells the tale with swagger and grit, while a buff and burnished Brad Pitt leads the assault as the warrior hero Achilles. No doubt this is pure Hollywood sensation, but it's also poignant storytelling, acutely sensitive to the themes of human frailty at the heart of its source.
Pubescent lust is the trigger for war, with playboy Prince of Troy Paris (Orlando Bloom) stealing away the beautiful Helen (Diane Kruger) from Spartan King Menelaus (Brendon Gleeson). His actions inadvertently provide Menelaus' brother, and King Of Kings, Agamemnon (a deliciously canny Brian Cox) with a convenient excuse to invade Troy, thus securing his hold over the Aegean Sea.
To ensure victory he calls upon Greece's premier fighting machine, Achilles - portrayed with fitting celestial vanity by megastar Pitt. Reluctant to spill the blood of thousands for what he sees as a quarrel between two men, Achilles is finally swayed into battle by the promise of immortality. Laying in wait for him is Paris' older and much wiser brother, Hector (a scene-stealing role for the magnetic Eric Bana). Where Achilles is puffed with arrogance, Hector is essentially decent - defining qualities that will ultimately prove the chinks in their respective armour.
Keeping the Olympian gods out of the frame, screenwriter David Benioff opts for ground-level realism, preserving the mythology through the deeply held superstitions of his characters. Petersen shoots the battle scenes in accordingly down-and-dirty style, most memorably the showdown between Hector and Achilles - the resounding clang of sword striking shield amplifying heart-stopping tension.
The steely gaze of Peter O'Toole, as Trojan King Priam, is used to similarly penetrating effect during a last appeal to Achilles' conscience. A pivotal moment of The Iliad, it's also a standout scene here, with O'Toole heading the pack of sterling performances. Note too, a quietly confident Sean Bean as Odysseus.
It's only when the walls of Troy are breached that the film becomes a little unsteady, largely because its key conflict has already been resolved. Even so, Troy remains a hugely entertaining film, sprinkled with moments of brilliance. Surely the gods will look upon it and smile.