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Alexander (15)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

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 abound).

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.

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