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Jesus’ stock is on the rise in Hollywood, but the Greek gods have been put in turnaround by Troy, an old-fashioned sword-and-sandal picture inflated by modern digital splendor. Loosely derived from The Iliad, the movie recounts the clash of Greek champion Achilles (Brad Pitt) and Troy’s Prince Hector (Eric Bana) and the eventual fall of the latter’s supposedly impregnable city. This 165-minute costumer is no ancient treasure, yet the work of director Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm) and writer David Benioff (25th Hour) is only occasionally laughable. They introduce the expected human characters, most of them played by Irish and Australian actors and Lord of the Rings veterans: Hector’s brother Paris (Orlando Bloom) steals Helen (Diane Kruger) from her Greek husband, King Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson). Menelaus’ brother Agamemnon (Brian Cox) takes this as the opportunity to conquer Troy, raising an army that includes Odysseus (Sean Bean) and the headstrong and womanizing but basically noble Achilles. Paris and Helen flee to Troy, where Priam (Peter O’Toole) rules, Hector’s wife (Saffron Burrows) awaits, and the brothers’ cousin Briseis (Rose Byrne) has just become a priestess of Apollo. But just where is Apollo? In the epic attributed to Homer, the gods continually intervene—and sometimes change sides. In Troy, however, events that were originally caused by Athena, Apollo, and Poseidon are attributed exclusively to mortal courage and ingenuity. Paganism, apparently, is for suckers: The Trojans disastrously accept the Greeks’ giant wooden horse because they think spurning it would insult Poseidon, and Achilles, a part-time humanist philosopher, regularly mocks the sun god and his fellow deities. (The oddest example of this comes when Achilles paraphrases Stalin’s dismissal of the pope: “How many troops does Apollo have?”) Yet the filmmakers haven’t eliminated every supernatural element: Achilles is still invulnerable save for his heel, although it’s never explained why. Such lapses help make Troy a jumble of mythic swashbuckling and contemporary sensibility. (Briseis, for example, is essentially a bit of plunder in The Iliad, but here she stands up for female dignity almost as piously as Tina Fey did in Mean Girls.) Perhaps this essentially godless flick should have junked Homer altogether and tried to imagine what the siege of Troy was really like. —Mark Jenkins