Alexander

Clocking in at just under three hours, Oliver Stone's epic biography of Alexander the Great is a $150 million-plus toga party that's nearly as megalomaniacally overreaching as its subject. While it's never boring, the film's entertainment value lies in all the wrong places: ridiculously staged grand tragedy, overblown acting and a lot of inadvertently campy...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Clocking in at just under three hours, Oliver Stone's epic biography of Alexander the Great is a $150 million-plus toga party that's nearly as megalomaniacally overreaching as its subject. While it's never boring, the film's entertainment value lies in all the wrong places: ridiculously staged grand tragedy, overblown acting and a lot of inadvertently campy humor. Alexandria, 363 B.C. Forty years after Alexander's death at the age of 32, grizzled old Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins), the faithful general who ruled Egypt after the posthumous division of Alexander's empire, recounts the life of the Macedonian king who, by the age of 25, had conquered most of the known world. Born to the witchy Olympias (Angelina Jolie, purring like a fortune-teller and never without a serpent wrapped around one limb or another) and one-eyed King Philip II (Val Kilmer), tutored alongside his lifelong beloved companion Hephaistion (Jared Leto) by Aristotle (Christopher Plummer) himself, the young Alexander (a bottle-blond Colin Farrell) is clearly bound for greatness, though many doubted Philip was indeed the boy's father. After a little horse whispering, Alexander alone is able to mount Bucephalas, the fierce black stallion that would soon carry his master into victory at the far reaches of the globe. After Philip is assassinated, presumably by envoys of the Persian king but just in time to keep the crown from being passed to Philip's undoubtedly legitimate son by his second, Greek wife (Marie Meyer), Alexander is declared king. Vowing to avenge his father's murder and fulfill the Greek dream of an Eastern empire, Alexander marches his vast army across Asia on an eight-year expedition that would net him a vast empire, a Persian wife (Rosario Dawson) — despite the king's obviously carnal love for Hephaistion — and the enmity of his men, who dismiss Alexander's rhetoric about racial harmony as more blarney from an overinflated ego. Alexander is able to quash the incipient mutiny, but no one can save Alexander from himself. This is history as souped-up, sexed-over Hollywood spectacle, a series of increasingly elaborate and homoerotic orientalist fantasias that have as much in common with pre-Christian history as Stone's JFK (1991) had with the Kennedy assassination. There are, however, two stunning battle sequences, and that rose-tinted bloodbath is a stroke of the eccentric genius for which Stone is famous. Nothing, however, can dim the memory of Farrell hissing at a snarling Dawson on their wedding night, Leto swanning around in a flowing caftan, or Hephaistion's deathbed scene, a terrible miscalculation that Mel Brooks himself couldn't have staged for bigger laughs.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Clocking in at just under three hours, Oliver Stone's epic biography of Alexander the Great is a $150 million-plus toga party that's nearly as megalomaniacally overreaching as its subject. While it's never boring, the film's entertainment value lies in all… (more)

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