If Homer's mythical epic "The Iliad" is based on a factual story, that story is magnificently depicted in Wolfgang Petersen's 2004 epic film "Troy." In other words, don't expect any goofy 'gods' or 'goddesses' like Athena popping out of thin air because "Troy" is an ultra-realistic and serious portrayal of the Trojan war.
More than that, "Troy" is without a doubt the BEST sword & sandal epic ever put to film. You name the picture -- "Samson and Delilah," "Spartacus," "Ben-Hur," "Ulysses," "The Viking Queen," "Braveheart," "Attila," "The Odyssey," "Gladiator," etc. -- "Troy" is BETTER. Okay, maybe I'm getting a bit carried away here because I just viewed "Troy" and it blew me away, but "Troy" is at least AS GOOD as some of the better flicks just mentioned, like "Ben-Hur," and far edges out "Spartacus" and "Samson and Delilah." As for more recent sword & sandal epics like the overrated "Braveheart" or "Gladiator," "Troy" utterly blows 'em out of the water -- no lie.
Roger Ebert is a great writer and critic, but his mediocre review of "Troy" is all wrong. Ebert's major criticisms, believe it or not, are the main reasons I have such high respect for this film -- He complains that Petersen omitted the many Greek 'gods' & 'goddesses' and gripes that the actors perform their roles as believable people and not larger-than-life caricatures. This can, of course, be respectably done, as in the 1955 film "Ulysses," but this is not what Petersen was shooting for in "Troy." His goal, as already noted, was to depict the ACTUAL Trojan war that Homer's myth is based on (and even if it never really took place, wars LIKE IT did).
Regarding Brad Pitt's heavily criticized performance as Achilles, I'm not a major Brad Pitt fan -- I neither love him or hate him -- but I think he does an outstanding and believable job portraying Greece's greatest warrior. No he's not the bulkiest warrior to ever grace the earth, but he's fast as lightning, confident, expertly skilled and deadly accurate. Even his voice completely fits the role. Eric Bana (from "Hulk") is also great as Hector, Achilles' Trojan counterpart, who's sick of war and just wants to live a life of peace with his family. These two have a showdown in the film and it is without a doubt the greatest man-to-man sword & sandal fight ever filmed -- really!
What's interesting about the picture is that you never really end up rooting for one side or the other. When Achilles and Hector have their powerful showdown, my wife and I couldn't decide who to root for. Maybe that's the point. Don't get me wrong here, Agamemnon could probably be viewed as the villain in this picture, and I wasn't rooting for Menelaus when he fights Paris (Orlando Bloom, who seduces Helen, Menelaus' wife), but neither the Greeks or the Trojans are painted as the 'good guys' or 'bad guys.' They're just people at war, and in war there's no real glory, as Hector points out,... and it never ends, as Achilles states. An additional point of the film is that living in a state of war is a JOYLESS existence. And both Bana and Pitt get this across well.
As for beautiful women, there are only a couple mentionables: Diane Kruger plays Helen, "the face that launched a thousand ships." Some have complained that she's too plain for the role, but I disagree. Not that I think she's some ultra-ravishing beauty (although she does have a supremely impressive rear-end shot), but she's certainly not plain looking; and, besides, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder -- if Paris deems her worthy of starting a war, who are we to disagree? Also on hand is cutie Rose Byrne who plays Briseis, the virgin priestess whom Achilles converts to the pleasures of the flesh.
I should point out that "Troy" is one of the most expensive pictures ever made, close to 200 million dollars, and it definitely SHOWS on the screen. Make no mistake, "Troy" is breath-taking just to WATCH -- the colossal armies, ships and battles are awe-inspiring to behold, not to mention the Maltan and Mexican locations. And the CGI effects are outstanding, not fake-looking like the Rome and Coliseum scenes in "Gladiator."
Another complaint by Ebert is that the dialogue is lousy; nothing could be further from the truth. There are great pieces of dialogue interspersed throughout the flick, including Achilles' comment that the 'gods' envy people because we're mortal and "Everything's beautiful because we're doomed." So don't worry, there's thankfully not one 'humorous,' goofy one-liner anywhere to be found.
James Horner's score should also be mentioned. If you enjoyed the soundtrack for "The Passion of the Christ" you'll love this one because it's just as good/serious/appropriate/powerful. For instance, the intense percussion during Achilles and Hector's showdown is magnificent.
INTERESTING NOTE: Brad Pitt, who plays Achilles, injured his Achilles tendon while making the film. Fitting, no?
FINAL WORD: If you're into sword & sandal epics, "Troy" will blow you away. The story captivates you right from the very beginning and never lets up the entire 2.5 hour running time. Beyond this "Troy" extravagantly visualizes the Trojan war for you, something I never did until seeing this mind-blowing, outstanding piece of cinema.
Keep in mind that those who give "Troy" a poor rating are the same losers who think "Jackass -- the Movie" is a great film.