Review – Alexander (KS, February 2005)

dir: Oliver Stone
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jared Leto, Angelina Jolie
Warner Bros.,175 minutes

Alexander the Great doesn’t need a movie to be a controversial figure. Even today, the Greeks and Macedonians who live in Toronto have words during certain ceremonies in front of Alexander’s bust on Danforth Avenue. And of course, there’s still some controversy about just who or what a Macedonian is. Alexander still frays tempers thousands of years after his death. He is, in other words, Oliver Stone’s kind of guy. You’d think he could have done more with him in this movie.
The story unfurls for hours on end, as most Stone movies do. The difference here is that you feel it. Part of the problem is the interminable narration by Anthony Hopkins (as Ptolemy), but perhaps the biggest mistake was the casting of Colin Farrell as the blond-rinsed Alexander. In fairness,though, Farrell could only be as good as the work he was given to do. Stone’s lead characters are often on the brink of madness or obsession (Jim Morrison, Jim Garrison haunted by Kennedy’s assassination, Richard Nixon, the lead couple in Natural Born Killers employing their natural born talents), but Farrell’s Alexander just goes out and methodically invades countries until he can’t anymore and dies at 32. And talks a lot. And broods. And rides horses. And invades (the battle scenes are much more interesting than those of last year’s Troy, but still).
His “controversial” love life doesn’t amount to much either. Alexander is shown getting into the rough stuff once with his pagan wife (Rosario Dawson), and sharing a few chaste cuddles with his lifelong male companion Hephaistion (Jared Leto), but our hero doesn’t seem to be having much fun either way. If you go to the theater with high hopes of being shocked by the depravity, you’ll be disappointed. I was more intrigued by Alexander’s ambiguous relationship with his powerful mother (who is, after all, Angelina Jolie), but in our confused age, the sight of two historically accurate guys hugging gets a director denounced by the Greek government. He might as well have passed Farrell and Leto the breath mints and told them to go to it.

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