Brad Pitt picks up a sword and brings a muscular, brooding presence to the role of Greek warrior Achilles in this spectacular retelling of The Iliad. Orlando Bloom and Diane Kruger play the legendary lovers who plunge the world into war, Eric Bana portrays the prince who dares to confront Achilles, and Peter O'Toole rules Troy as King Priam. Director Wolfgang Petersen recreates a long-ago world of bireme warships, clashing armies, the massive fortress city and the towering Trojan Horse.
No doubt about it, the 196-minute unrated director's cut of Troy represents a significant improvement over the film's original 162-minute theatrical release--and not just because it has more sex and violence. As director Wolfgang Petersen notes in his new "Troy Revisited" video introduction to this 2-disc special edition, he didn't have the time or directorial discretion (prior to Troy's release in 2004) to present a cut that more closely matched his vision for the film. Three years later, Petersen approached the film with a more relaxed perspective, and the result is a well-crafted expansion on a film that was previously underrated, with 30 minutes of previously unseen material. Character dynamics have been improved and intensified; the epic-scale narrative is now easier to follow, with greater emphasis on the inner turmoil of Achilles (well played by Brad Pitt) and his rivalry with Hector (Eric Bana); and viewers will feel a more satisfying escalation of tension and suspense from battle to battle. The film's enormous battle scenes (impressively enhanced with CGI) are bloodier and gorier, but they're also more effectively integrated into the political story, which goes beyond Homer's The Iliad and the death of Hector to incorporate elements of Virgil and a more revealing study of the differences between Trojan king Priam (Peter O'Toole) and his megalomanical Greek rival, king Agamemnon (Brian Cox), whose lust for revenge is now one of the film's most powerful ingredients. Some of Troy's original weaknesses remain (such as Orlando Bloom's wimpy performance as Paris), but overall, this director's cut easily justifies its existence, regardless of the film's overblown and historically inaccurate depiction of Troy as a gigantic city of massive columns and statuary. The good parts are better, and the not-so-good parts are more easily forgiven. And no matter how you cut it, Troy is a lavish feast for the eyes. --Jeff Shannon