Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES (2-DISC): Commentary by Oliver Stone
and historian/Alexander biographer Robin Lane Fox. Three Profiles
Of An Epic Screen Event With Cast And Crew. Teaser trailer. Theatrical
trailer. Weblink to the Online World of Alexander the Great.
ONLY Oliver Stone could make a film as ambitious and flawed as
Alexander, a spectacularly lavish bore about the life of one of
the world's greatest military leaders/conquerors.
Clocking in at almost three hours, and rumoured to have cost
in excess of $155 million, the epic boasts some outstanding moments
(not least in its battle sequences), but ends up being as confused
and ridiculous as its protagonist's sexuality.
It's little wonder that a group of Greek lawyers has threatened
to sue both the distributor, Warner Bros, and director, Stone,
for suggesting that Alexander was bisexual, given that the film
lacks the courage of its convictions to decide either way.
Had Alexander shown a little more focus, or guts (dare I say),
then Stone's film might not have seemed so tedious.
As it stands, the epic is told from the perspective of Anthony
Hopkins' Ptolemy, a former ally of the leader, who contemplates
his relevance to history by focusing on the defining moments of
the leader's life - from his confused upbringing ('he was born
from the loins of war'), through to his various relationships,
and his ambitious desire to take Greek civilization beyond the
known reaches of his society, even if it meant conquering some
barbaric cultures in the process.
Hence, the movie attempts to examine how much of an effect his
feuding parents had on him, while also exposing the folly behind
several of his tactical decisions, and the anxieties and temper
tantrums which frequently placed the lives of some of his closest
friends at risk.
As Alexander, Colin Farrell struggles manfully with the demands
of the role, but ends up appearing as confused as the rest of
the movie. Sporting a laughable blonde wig and an out-of-place
Irish accent (which the rest of the cast tries to emulate), the
star is at his most compulsive when 'unleashing hell' upon enemies,
yet looks awkward and embarrassed when tackling the issue of sexuality.
He is not helped by Jared Leto, who
plays his boyhood friend, Hephaistion, and the subject of his
romantic fixation, given that the actor fails to rise above the
pretty-boy good looks he is saddled with.
But then Stone refuses to allow either performer to tackle the
issue head-on, opting to communicate their 'affair' largely through
stolen hugs and clumsy dialogue - a ploy which ultimately backfires,
come the unintentionally hilarious resolution to their relationship.
And another of Alexander's romantic liaisons is similarly poorly
handled - namely that which he shared with his first wife, princess
Rozane (Rosario Dawson), a 'barbarian beauty' he becomes infatuated
with during his controversial attempt to bridge cultures. The
couple's wedding sequence (from ceremony to sex) also provoked
impromptu giggling from the preview audience.
Yet therein lies the film's crippling flaw; it's Achilles heel
if you will. When exploring other aspects of Alexander's life,
it remains enjoyable and even riveting, yet by opting to linger
around his sexuality, Stone tests the patience of his viewers
by tip-toeing around the issue.
Were it not for this flaw, the film might have succeeded better.
Val Kilmer and Angelina Jolie contribute fine supporting performances
as Alexander's parents (with Jolie particularly impressive), while
the film's two big battle sequences are awe-inspiring, especially
the surreal tussle with elephants in the Indian jungle, which
marked the beginning of the end for the great leader.
During such moments, Alexander feels like an epic worthy of the
word, refusing to pull any punches in its depiction of the barbarity
of war, and the confusion which must have reigned. It is also,
quite tellingly, when the talking stops and the action begins,
for Alexander is also too wordy for its own good (rousing speeches
When compared to Stone's other biopics (JFK, Nixon, etc) it feels
particularly lacking in substance, with the only real talking
point being how such an accomplished director could have made
Alexander The Great so darn tedious and, dare I say, ordinary.