R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Oliver Stone
scr Oliver Stone, Christopher Kyle, Laeta Kalogridis
with Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Jared Leto, Anthony Hopkins, Val Kilmer, Rosario Dawson, Gary Stretch, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Rory McCann, Elliot Cowan, John Kavanagh, Joseph Morgan, Tim Pigott-Smith, Marie Meyer, Brian Blessed, Christopher Plummer
release US 24.Nov.04, UK 7.Jan.05
04/US 2h53

Are you my mother? Jolie and Farell

leto hopkins kilmer
dawson rhysmeyers plummer
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It's hard to tell exactly where Oliver Stone goes wrong with this ambitious film. But besides an almost offensive refusal to tell the real story, he compiles the scenes incoherently, only once letting us feel the passion that drove Alexander to conquer virtually the entire known world.

Events are narrated by Ptolemy (Hopkins) in 323 BC, 40 years after Alexander's death at age 32. We see Alexander's bizarre childhood with his snake-worshipping mother Olympias (Jolie) and one-eyed king dad (Kilmer). Then when he inherits the throne at 19 this young warrior-explorer heads off to vanquish the Persians, then keeps going east, all the way to India. Along the way he deals with insurrections, homesick troops and marriage to a Central Asian woman (Dawson).

Stone's first mistake is to filter this story through 21st century morality; awkward bits are simply deleted--most notably Alexander's homosexuality, which exists here only as innuendo. This leaves a massive gap in the narrative, as Hephaistion (Leto is merely portrayed as a lifelong friend. We never feel the bond between them. This condescending, often corny approach leaves scenes drenched in cliches--gleaming costumes, atrocious music (by Vangelis), false emotions, endless grandstanding speeches. The eyeliner budget alone could probably rebuild Baghdad today.

There is a great movie buried in this cacophonous mess. It's often gorgeous and thrilling--the bird's eye view of the desert war, the arrival in Baghdad, the climactic Indian forest battle. The acting is solid, even with some jarring miscasting. But it's structured in a way that continually alienates us. Battles make no sense. Dialog is vague and insinuating--without any pay-off. And compared with Troy, this is merely an incoherent melodrama.

After literally two hours of this, there's a wonderful scene as Alexander faces a mutiny in India. His compelling speech finally lets us glimpse a man with the heart of an explorer but whose job is to conquer. As he travelled where no European had ever been before, he changed the world far more than he ever knew. Stone gets many details right, but he sacrifices Alexander's soul in the process.

cert 15 themes, violence, gore, sexuality 4.Dec.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Alexander Donna Carter, Wisconsin: "Wow, that was a L-O-O-O-N-N-G movie! Almost three hours. There are some good parts, but all in all, I thought it was p-l-o-d-d-i-n-g, which I didn't expect from Oliver Stone. Oh, and if you are the least bit homophobic, you will probably not want to see this movie. I am not at all sure how much of the film is true to history (I need to brush up on my history!) so I don't know how much credit to give in that regard. Angelina Jolie did a good job making herself both beautiful and hate-able at the same time. Anthony Hopkins looked great. He narrated the entire thing. I think they went a bit overboard with the one-eyed men - and the seven years it took Alexander to get to the east seemed to take seven years in the theater as well. It would have been far better to have watched this movie from the comfort of my own couch, with the pause button handy." (28.Nov.04)
2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall