Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Colin Farrell, Jared Leto, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer
It’s a shame that this rich and beautiful movie became the turkey of 2004. Alexander’s primary liability is its lumbering biopic style which checklists every event, major or minor, in Alexander’s life from infancy to death. But apart from this structural flaw, the film has many merits, including a lush sensuality built into fabulously hammy acting as well as beautiful sets and costumes.
Farrell - an odd casting choice - plays the great conqueror, who journeyed from Macedonia to the edge of India, annexing every state and tribe in between, and all in a flabbergastingly short time (he was dead at 32). Sexually ambiguous and mercurial as well as being a military genius, Alexander burnt down the palace at Persepolis after a drunken orgy and killed one of his best friends and closest advisors, Cleitus, in a heated alcohol-feuled argument. Plutarch claimed that Alexander descended from Zeus, who made love with Alexander’s mother Olympia, who slept with snakes to keep her boorish husband, Philip II of Macedon, away from her at night.
Angelina Jolie, who plays Olympia, brings her bedtime snakes with her wherever she goes. They coil metaphorically around her tanned ankles, and she fingers them affectionately as she stares out windows and vacantly addresses her adored, faraway son in a very distracting accent that is more Ukranian than Macedonian. However, Jolie and Farrell don’t share any charisma and look uncomfortable in their scenes together. The once-gorgeous Val Kilmer, who plays Philip II, is swollen and haggard and overacts for no apparent reason. Many of his long banquet or trying-to-fuck Olympia scenes go nowhere. In any case, the backstory of Alexander’s childhood and pedigree could have been suggested by a line of dialogue here or there, or a poignant glance at a statue and the weird performances from Kilmer and Jolie make it all seem even more redundant – get rid of it!
Anthony Hopkins, made up to look about a hundred and fifty, plays a narrator who records Alexander’s life at the library of Alexandria, which was a grand building but in this film looks more like Elton John’s bathroom or an ad for Yves St. Laurent’s “Kouros”.
However, the film’s battle scenes are stunning, replete with charging elephants and a retreating King Darius of Persia. Also, Stone has teased out some sort of essence of pre-Christian sexuality, with his camera falling with equal adoration on nubile women and hunky men, and Alexander’s love life cascades across a series of stunningly beautiful people with no regard for or interest in (homo/hetero)sexual identities. Worth watching, but not Great.