Troy: The film that launched a thousand trips to the restroom

Well, OK, so it dragged a little in parts, but for my money Troy was well worth the six dollars I paid to enter an air-cooled cinema complex in Reston, Virginia, to see it, after a hot day rambling along the US National Mall, in Washington DC. This day-trip had rather remarkably included a motorcade glimpse of that modern-day Agamemnon and Caretaker-King of Kings, George Dubya Bush. But more about him, later.

Back in Reston, surrounded by the usual crowd of People-who-should-be-killed rustling sweet papers, whispering into cell phones, and just plain talking out loud, I caught my first glimpse of Orlando Bloom as Paris, Prince of Troy, who played the teenage female love interest. If I was a teenage girl myself I would be in love with Britain's very own Mr Bloom, who appears to have developed a Schwarzenegger-like film motif, one wrapped within a deadly gimlet eye and a passion for sharp-bladed archery ? expect Keanu Reeves to say 'Whoah! Just love your arrows', in any future film where he appears alongside Orlando ? there was an audible sigh from the younger ladies when Orlando, as Paris, made his first on-screen appearance.

This was matched a minute or two later by a deeper groan, this time from the older men, when Diane Kruger, playing Helen of Troy, released her bodice without revealing to the camera what it contained. Only Paris got to see this, damn his black composite horn bow!

The movie then sets sail, led by the financial greed of the splendid Brian Cox, who plays Agamemnon, a Mycenaean king lusting after the maritime domination of the Hellespont, the narrow straits overlooked by Troy, nowadays known as the Dardanelles, after which Helen of Troy was probably named by later Greek mythographers. These straits link the Black Sea to the Aegean. They therefore controlled the lucrative wool fleece and grain trade routes into the Mediterranean. So great were these riches that it may be little surprise that the invention of gold coinage, to provide a medium of indirect trade exchange, took place later, in the 6th century AD, only a few miles down the coast, in Lydia, under the rule of King Croesus.

Only ten minutes into the film and we'd already gotten into ruthless state aggression initiated by a parasitic need to pillage another state and to tax the free movement of goods, in order to fund an elite class of gold-loving metropolitan nobles. What goes around comes around, I suppose; it looked like we were in for a movie treat.

Which brings me to Brad Pitt, the older female love interest, playing Achilles. Some Troy reviewers have resolutely stated that Achilles should have been played by a 1950s Marlon Brando, rather than the six-packed Mr Pitt. But hey, guess what folks, it's 2004, and there ain't no young Marlon Brando I can see roaming around, kicking his heels, who I reckon would've worked any better than Mr Pitt. Yes, Brad's accent is all over the place compared to the various classically-trained Brits in the film, but come on, this film is set twelve centuries before Jesus Christ himself appeared on the scene, and as far as I'm aware the Sea Peoples of the Aegean had yet to invent the received English pronunciation of the Royal Shakespeare Company ? so let's just leave Brad alone, can we, and thank our lucky stars that Mel Gibson was directorially unavailable to shoot the film in either Achaean Greek, the probable language of the Mycenaeans, or ancient Phrygian, the probable and related language of the Trojans.

Yes, OK, I suppose there are three rivals who could have done a better job as Achilles, in pure Brando-esque acting terms, but Russell Crowe needs to go on a diet, Anthony Hopkins is hardly in the Achilles age range, and the appearance of Viggo Mortensen would have turned this drama into a Lord of the Rings comedy sequel, especially in the numerous scenes where Achilles plays opposite Sean Bean as Boromir, sorry, Odysseus. Plus, despite all the terrible temptations laid across his path by the Gods of fame, Mr Pitt still possesses an impressive Thelma and Louise six-pack, perfect for any glorious die-young warrior. And as a man myself who merely dreams of such six-packs, I salute him.

And the plot? Fortunately the plot failed to spoil this excellent action adventure movie, which I suspect is the way Homer would have wanted it. When Homer transcribed The Iliad from traditional oral poems, about four or so centuries after the actual events which inspired it, most Greeks had previously experienced the tale of Troy as a couple of hours watching a Dorian Greek troubadour dancing around a camp fire acting out the battles and the passions of an ancient feud, to create a fluid eighth century BC equivalent of a modern action movie. This meant the watchers could then avoid spending two weeks in a library studying a small Iliad penguin book equivalent. Which is handy, considering that books had yet to be invented by the Greeks. And that most people had never seen a penguin.

Even Homer Simpson can enjoy the original Homer, in this movie format, and the more people this film persuades to pick up a translation of the original Iliad, the better, in my humble opinion. So all you tut-tutting pseuds out there, who think this film is an intellectual outrage, come on, be happy. We can't all be as clever as you.

And who are we to deny the activities of ancient Greek troubadours or modern-day film-makers, anyway, from trying to make a living by entertaining people in the evening? Good luck to them, even if they do miss out all the Pantheonic Deity stuff involving Athena and Apollo. Breaking the film out from its mythological roots into the semi-believable is, I believe, a masterstroke by director-producer Wolfgang Petersen, renowned creator of one of my favourite ever TV series, Das Boot. Troy, the film, is already loaded with special effects. Adding yet more special effects to involve the squabbling rivalries of an Olympic panoply of Greek Gods would have turned this three hour film into a four hour swamp. However, I do agree that Herr Petersen could have shed a few more frames, to take his 170 minutes down to 160 minutes. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed his attempt to impress me with his $200 million dollar budget and I hope he makes enough cash back, for his investors, to be able to make a movie version of The Odyssey, to complete the set, hopefully to star my fellow Yorkshire-born Brit, Sean Bean, au naturellement.

What are the other highlights in Troy? Well, except for the thousand ship sailing scene which looks a little flakey on the special effects front, thereby unsuspending disbelief for a few moments, the battle scenes possess a Lord of the Rings quality, which is the highest level of praise I can personally attach to anything. King Priam, played by that splendid old ham Peter O'Toole, gets the best lines, though I half-expected Sir Ian Mckellen to pop up in the role, to keep the Fellowship theme going ? it's that kind of film. And finally, I love the way Prince Paris hands the fabled bronze sword of Troy to the previously unseen Trojan nobleman, Aeneas, an alleged son of the Goddess Venus, near to the end of the final reel.

According to various historical sources, Aeneas led a fleeing Trojan diaspora across the Mediterranean, which eventually separated into two horse-worshipping divisions, both remaining followers of the sea God Poseidon, one of whose main symbols was a white horse, an image still redolent today with powerful tribal magic. These two peoples were the Patricians of Rome and the People of Brutus. The main body of these Trojan emigres landed in Italy, founded Rome, created the equestrian order, subdued the surrounding Latin Plebeians, and eventually gave rise to Julius Caesar, who considered himself a direct descendant of Aeneas and the Goddess Venus, before he was murdered by Brutus et al in an ill-fated republican attempt to stop the creation of the Roman Empire by this semi-divine imperator.

Another direct descendant of Aeneas, his great-grandson, also named Brutus, formed another wing of the Trojans, later named after a corruption of Brutus's name as The British, by rescuing Trojan-descended slaves still held by the Greeks. These Trojans later escaped both the Mediterranean and the pursuing Greeks, before landing at Totnes, in Devon, to eventually give rise to King Arthur of the Britons almost fifteen hundred years later. You don't believe me? Then check out Virgil's first century AD epic, The Aeneid and Geoffrey of Monmouth's twelfth-century AD epic, The History of the Kings of Britain.

No wonder Washington is so full of all those Graeco-Roman buildings. If you twist history a little, force yourself to believe every word of both Virgil of Rome and Geoffrey of Monmouth, and then say a Hail Mary while spinning counter-clockwise under an apple tree, you could almost describe Troy as the first ever American city and Aeneas as the first ever direct lineal ancestor, in political terms, of your very own caretaker-king President George W. Bush, a man himself named after Georgos, the Greek word for Earth mover. Could the Romans, the British, and the Americans, all be directly descended, at least metaphorically, from the Trojans? Perhaps we should avoid believing everything we read.

However, if the British did exist as horse-worshipping Trojan slaves in Greece, before they escaped to form a free nation in the far west, a land beyond the Pillar of Hercules, this would help explain the enduring British characteristic of fighting to the death to avoid tyranny, as well as the curious British reluctance to eat horse flesh and all those strange bronze age and early iron age white horse symbols all over Britain.

And if the first Americans were also ordinary English, Irish, Scots, and Welsh folk once again escaping the tyranny of an increasingly corrupt British state, 2,500 years later, to form a second free nation in the far west, this could also help explain the enduring tradition of liberty held within the United States, which has since been perverted by social democracy, and also our fondness for Clint Eastwood westerns and the mythology of the cowboy and his semi-divine horse.

That both nations, particularly Britain, have subsequently been swamped under socialism's ratcheting yoke is unfortunate. But if the spirit of the Trojans can endure for 3,200 years, as a city which would rather die on its feet than live on its knees, maybe one day this self-same spirit can once again free itself to throw off the parasitic chains of our current position, ruled over by metropolitan elites with a taxing fondness for pork-barrel greenbacks and European Union subsidies. All we gotta do is find some bloke with a bronze sword, probably called Excalibur, put him on a white cavalry charger, and get him to sort it all out. But until he turns ups, feel the Trojan within you. Throw off the yoke.

By the way, getting back to the film, there's a real surprise at the end involving a horse, though I can't reveal exactly what this is, otherwise I'll be expelled from the Guild of Film Reviewers. Oh, and Achilles realises too late that he should've worn bigger boots.

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As coincidence would have

As coincidence would have it, I was also going to provide a review of an excellent DVD I rented over the weekend called Shattered Glass. It is based off a true story surrounding Stephen Glass, a writer for the New Republic magazine who was caught fabricating articles in 1998. The article that was his ultimate undoing was titled "Hack Heaven", and centered around teenage hackers who are striking employment deals with the very companies they hack, as opposed to getting into serious trouble.

Very well done and interesting film, and the DVD comes with the 60 Minutes segment from 2003 that interviews the actual Stephen Glass and a few others.