Directed By Oliver Stone; Written by Robin Lane Fox
Starring Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie (Warner Brothers)
Reviewed by Rusty Pipes
Alexander's name still rings 2300 years after his passing because of his unparalleled achievements, that much is sure. His story is full of magnificent battles, palace intrigue and driven, tragic figures, perfect for an epic Hollywood production. There was one other movie made of Alexander's life starring Richard Burton in the 50s; Oliver Stone's version is far better than that costume pageant. The scenes are beautifully shot, especially in the palace of Babylon, and the battle scenes are riveting. He succeeds at portraying the sweep of his life and the grandeur of the ancient world, yet somehow the movie fails to really engage the audience.
The story is told by an aged Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins), one of Alexander's generals who became Pharaoh of Egypt. This is strange because Ptolemy has hardly any lines in the rest of the story and it's hard to tell where his knowledge comes from. We aren't even sure why he was given Egypt to rule; however his narration does make a good starting point. He knew Alexander as a boy so Stone is able to give us a view of his childhood in the first reel. We see him studying at the feet of Aristotle and how he is used as a tool in the power struggle between his father Philip (Val Kilmer) and his mother Olympias (Angelina Jolie). He also meets his lifelong friend and lover, Hephaistion (Jered Leto).
Some years later Philip spurns Olympias by taking a new Macedonian wife. He banishes Alexander, whereupon Ptolemy's narration inexplicably lurches forward several years, past the conquering of much of the Mideast to Alexander's monumental victory over the Persians, Gaugamela. Maybe Stone felt the story was moving too slow. Maybe some of Alexander had to hit the cutting room floor just to get it down below two and a half hours. Who knows? In any case from there the film marches forward through the rest of great king's life, showing us how he dealt with the political intrigue within his supporters while single mindedly seeking new lands to conquer, all the while fighting the demons his father and mother left him.
Part of the problem is that almost the only thing Greek about this tragedy is the man on the soundtrack, Vangelis. All the actors are mushing their way through vaguely foreign accents: one general even gives us a blatantly Scottish tilt to his lines that is terribly out of place. The portrayal of Alexander's homosexual love for Hephaistion is really the only gamble that Stone takes with the film, but he's still a bit timid about it. There are hugs and kisses between the two, but the movie's only nudity is reserved for Alexander and Queen Roxanne (Rosario Dawson) on their wedding night.
Stone's attention to detail is laudable but the sum of it all certainly isn't Lord Of The Rings or even Braveheart. Alexander simply deserves better story telling.
Did I enjoy the movie? It fails to conquer.
© 2005 - Rusty Pipes