Alexander (2004) – movie review

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Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Anthony Hopkins, Rosario Dawson
Director: Oliver Stone

Ever since Ridley Scott reintroduced the film going public to the age of warriors and heroes of olden days in the Oscar winning GLADIATOR, Hollywood has convinced itself that the movie going public is hungry for any film with great battles and men in skirts all based somewhere in the B.C. period and therefore Oliver Stone’s long time dream project was given the green light.

Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins), Alexander’s general begins this tale as an old man narrating the life and times of Alexander from sometime around 290 B.C. which is the period when Alexander was born apparently to King Philip of Macedonia (Val Kilmer) and his wife Olympias (Angelina Jolie) to his eventual demise in 323 B.C. From Alexander’s childhood days as a student to the famed Greek philosopher Aristotle (Christopher Plummer) when he formed a particularly strong bond with a boy called Hephaistion (Jared Leto) his mother always told him that he was destined for greatness and that he was indeed the son of Zeus, God of the Gods! Alas tragedy strikes as King Philip of Macedonia is brutally assassinated leaving Alexander to assume the crown as a teenager and thus begins his epic journey. Alexander and his powerful army go on to conquer the entire world as known to the Macedonians and marries outside of Macedonia much to the anger of his influential mother and comrades in arms. Besides the many battles that he fought to achieve his vision we also see his obvious bisexuality in his relationship with Hephaistion and his apparent fear of his mother to the extent that he didn’t want to return to Macedonia mainly because he did not wish to confront her. Thus it is a tale of quite possibly the greatest leader of all time and the battles he fought on and off the battlefield. It has been told many times before and will probably be told again but for now this is Hollywood’s latest spin on the incredible life of Alexander The Great.

Oliver Stone is no stranger to war as he was a soldier in Vietnam and he made the war classic PLATOON but with ALEXANDER he falls very short of doing justice to a man who apparently sought to achieve more than the legendary Achilles. Stone’s first error is in the casting of Colin Farrell, he is a good actor but on this occasion he fails to convincingly portray a man who could lead an army of men older, wiser and more experienced in warfare to fight battles that they would never dream of winning. He fails to ooze the gravitas of obviously what must have been a powerful speaker and military dynamo, someone whom you would not think twice about following into battle. This poor casting is in itself a death blow to the film as it is all centred on this character, but alas there is more. The script aims to try and show you a more personal side to Alexander but it fails to even elaborate how he became so great other than a scene where as a boy he tames a wild horse and then fast forwards to him winning a great battle. Furthermore the pivotal role of Olympias as portrayed by Angelina Jolie is not believable as other than some grey hair she looks too close in age to her son, Alexander, and in the scenes where they embrace as mother and son it seems more like he wishes to ravish her rather than lovingly hug his mother. Supporting acts from Val Kilmer and Anthony Hopkins are good but alas they are lost amidst this obviously very expensive project, which is very technically efficient, sounds good but has no dramatic appeal and as such the whole experience is rather disappointingly shallow.

In conclusion this is an epic tale of a great man that is poorly told by this film and perhaps with a young Guy Pearce or a young Mel Gibson in the title role it would have been much more interesting. Not worth the trip to the cinema you might as well wait and catch it on the movie channel.

2 out of 6 stars