Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
2 hr. 56 min.
Year of Release:
“Fortune favors the bold”
Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” isn’t great. Apart from a few captivating moments, the greatest thing about it is its running time. Some scenes resonate with the current war in Iraq, but the strongest emphasis is the diversity of love relationships that Alexander has with others. Most of all, I didn’t feel engaged in the movie, and found it very difficult to sympathize with any of the characters.
Beginning and ending with Alexander’s death, this story has another set of bookends with the character Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins), who also provides narration throughout the story. Starting as a young boy, we see Alexander (Connor Paolo) growing up and being taught by his teachers as well as his mother, Olympias (Angelina Jolie). After Alexander (Colin Farrell) grows up, his “father” Philip (Val Kilmer) dies, and Alexander takes over the kingdom. He leads the people to conquer other kingdoms, until he is finally stopped in India. The story includes many historical facts and details, while also emphasizing some specific interpersonal relationships of Alexander’s.
One poignant relationship is with his male friend, Hephaestion (Jared Leto). The night before battle, Alexander is looking nervous when his friend Hephaestion asks him, “Is there no love in your life?” Alexander begins opening up to him and speaks very intimately—confessing that it is only him that he loves. There is nothing physical that we see happen between them. It is also a relationship that causes Alexander’s wife, Roxanne (Rosario Dawson) to be jealous, and ask, “Do you love him?” to which Alexander replies, “There are many different ways to love.”
The R-rating is due to battle related violence, sex and nudity. I did not notice any foul language. After Alexander is confronted by his wife, he begins to force himself on her and strips her clothes off. (This scene is reminiscent of a prior scene where Philip forces himself on Olympias until he is stopped.) During their scuffle, Alexander is impressed by how Roxanne is fighting back and compliments her for her lack of fear. He is impressed by her and says that he will die for this kind of love. Consequently, he tells her that his life is hers and declares that she will have his son. A somewhat explicit sex scene follows.
The idea of homosexuality is referenced or implied several times throughout this story. Besides hints in his relationship with Hephaestion, it is also implied that Alexander is sleeping with his man-servant, who is disappointed when Alexander tells him he will be bathing alone one night. Later, we see Alexander subtly inviting him to bed. On another night, at a party, the people watch a show of male dancers, coupled together with hints of homoeroticism. When coaxed by the crowd after the performance, Alexander gives in and kisses one of the male dancers—followed by a cringe from his wife.
Another possible element of the director’s visions for this film is the relevance to the current war in Iraq. There are moments that can be inferred to relate to President Bush leading our country into war. After having conquered so much, Alexander wants to continue and conquer more, but the people are not with him. They say, “We’ve seen too many people die,” and exclaim how they want to see their families again. Alexander tries to keep it positive and promises them pensions, and boasts of how he took them farther than his father did. However, the film seemed neutral on the subject, not trying to take sides on this issue, and any reference to current events is subjective.
Having been entertained by previous Olive Stone films, it was surprisingly difficult to find much entertaining here. The greatest sequence is the battle in India—involving very stylized elements. This reviewer wishes that Stone would have incorporated more of this approach to the entire film, rather than only at the end. The straightforward narrative aspects made it a bit dry. The fact that it was extremely difficult to sympathize with the characters made it all the more disengaging. It might have been much more enjoyable if Stone has used the strength he has with poetic images and done the entire film in that way.