THE word epic is so overused in the movie business that it’s a relief to find a film for which the term is not only fitting but obligatory. Troy was where the epic began, and Homer, who more or less invented the genre, has had scant attention from Hollywood. Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy (Saturday, 10.35pm, M Action/Adventure) looks like a gallant attempt to make up for lost ground. This will be the greatest war the world has ever seen,’’ someone muses early on; and if we are in the mood for vast battle scenes, huge armadas, clashing hordes of warriors and swordsmen, this is the film to see. In an epic without obvious goodies or baddies, tension is hard to sustain. It may depend on whether we prefer Brad Pitt’s glistening bulked-up torso as Achilles or Eric Bana’s greater vigour and darker charms as Hector. Given the emphasis on male physique, Troy may be more homoerotic than Homeric.
There’s no doubt whose side we are on in Henry V (Saturday, 4.15pm, TCM). Made at the height of the German blitz on London in World War II, this magnificent film of Shakespeare’s classic tale of victory in the face of overwhelming odds was conceived as a grand morale-booster for the Brits in 1944.
The producer was Filippo del Giudici, an Italian lawyer and fugitive from Mussolini’s fascist rule, who originally wanted William Wyler or Carol Reed to direct. When both turned him down, Laurence Olivier signed on as director as well as playing the title role. The result was one of the greatest Shakespearean films, beginning as a staged production in Elizabethan London’s original Globe Theatre with stylised sets before giving way to real-life action during the Battle of Agincourt.
Another famous King Henry can be seen in A Man for All Seasons (Wednesday, 10.05pm, TCM), Fred Zinnemann’s Oscar-winning