Published Nov 01, 2004Oliver Stone is seen by many as the quintessential American film director since his films tend to fall under at least one of three subject headings: power, politics and violence. He throws all of these elements, plus a heavy dose of oedipal trajectories, into Alexander, the third large-scale military bio-pic in the last six months, following in the messy footsteps of Troy and King Arthur.
Bisexual Macedonian king Alexander "the Great" (Colin Farrell) was a prolific conqueror who ruled almost the entire known world by his early 30s. But because no great foe could rise to challenge his mighty army, there's no single conflict to carry the story. So the dilemma presents itself: what does a windbag director fill up that three hours with? Freudian mother-loving, father-fearing, slave-boy-kissing, Hamlet-pinching melodrama, that's what.
Since there's no climactic fight at the end to anticipate, we're left with the histrionic struggle of the king's demons. It's a device that's rarely been well executed. Alexander has visions of his dead father Philip (Val Kilmer) ominously peering down on him and flashbacks to manipulative mommy Olympias (Angelina Jolie, sporting another horrendous accent, this time inexplicably Russian). The insecure, whiny ramblings to his boyfriend Hephaistion (Jared Leto) and hissy fit execution orders get tired quickly.
There are plenty of sneaky political comments (Babylon is easy to defeat but hard to leave, and Alexander conquers lands his father couldn't get it?), but it's just a bunch of talk. Oddly, Stone doesn't even fully explain the tactics and strategies of the military legend, which given his violent interests, should have been an easy task. With only two battle scenes, it's the only reason to stay awake, though if you have trouble with Stone's whiplash style of camera work, bring along a barf bag. On second thought, take it anyway. (Warner)