Grecian Formula; Brad Pitt Tackles Homer in the Blood-and-Biceps Epic 'Troy.' and You Thought Helen Was Hot

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Byline: Jeff Giles, NEWSWEEK'S film critic David Ansen is on sabbatical.

Brad Pitt's quest for credibility has been only a qualified success, so his first scene in Wolfgang Petersen's epic "Troy" is not just the movie's most titillating--he is revealed butt-naked, sleeping off a threesome in a tent--but its most nervous-making as well: he opens his mouth and starts acting. Given Pitt's fascination with subverting expectations, it's easy to imagine why he was drawn to Achilles. Here's a warrior, taken from Homer's Iliad, of course, who's supremely arrogant yet roiling in self-loathing. Still, it took guts for Pitt to sign on for the role. With his flowing locks, helmet and breastplate, Achilles could look to audiences every inch the tragic hero--or like a guy about to deliver a kinky strip-o-gram.

Either way, no one's going to complain. "Troy" is a fun, energizing piece of summer entertainment, even if it doesn't have the depth or the sustained intensity of "Gladiator." The story, as Homer proved, does not lend itself to paraphrase, but here goes. The movie opens with the Trojan prince Paris (Orlando Bloom) making off with Helen, the Queen of Sparta (Diane Kruger). Enraged, Sparta's King Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson) urges his brother, King Agamemnon of the Mycenaens (Brian Cox in a robustly evil turn), to help him unite all the tribes of Greece, lay siege to Troy and recover his queen so he can kill her with his own hands. …