Gladiator gave us a nasty, brutish vision of the world, but it compensated somewhat with a soothing and vaguely pagan belief in the afterlife. The Passion of The Christ gave us the suffering and execution of the Jewish Messiah, but it concluded with a brief glimpse of the resurrection by which he conquered death. Now comes Troy, the biggest Greco-Roman epic of them all—so far—and its theology is of a more agnostic sort.
Ironically enough, the warriors of this film spend a lot of time killing each other partly because they see no hope for a meaningful life beyond this world; for them, the gods and goddesses are mostly rumors at best, their wills impossible to discern, and the afterlife is a vague, shadowy realm that provides no comfort. For these men, the best kind of immortality they can hope for is to have their names live on the lips of their fellow men for ages to come—and the surest way to ensure their fame seems to be to kill as many people in battle as possible.
Troy, then, is about the quest for personal glory in a heartless and indifferent world, and the unfortunate thing about Wolfgang Petersen's mega-budgeted, star-studded film is that it, too, lacks heart and comes across like a hollow quest for Hollywood glory. Early on in the film, Agamemnon (Brian Cox), king of all Greece, reluctantly concedes that if he is going to embark on the most ambitious military invasion of all time, he will need Achilles (Brad Pitt), the greatest but also one of the most uncontrollable warriors who has ever lived, on his side. So he sends the smooth-talking Odysseus (Sean Bean) to lure Achilles with the promise that this war will be his greatest opportunity to boost his own fame—and it is not too hard to imagine ...1
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