Though he has been dead for over 2,000 years Alexander the Great remains one of history's most influential figures. By the age of 25, this Macedonian king had conquered most of the known world and built an empire that stretched across two continents. The scale and depth of the changes he wrought upon the ancient civilisations around him was so great that the effects are still felt today, particularly in the Middle East. Oliver Stone's film traces the great conqueror's life from his early boyhood until his untimely death at age 32.
The story of Alexander the Great, one of the richest and most spectacular true stories in history, has been largely ignored by the last 30 years of mainstream filmmakers. So when I heard that Oliver Stone, a true master of modern film, was making a movie about the great conqueror I was naturally excited. Tragically "Alexander" is one of my biggest disappointments of 2004.
I could easily have ignored the movie's minor irritations - like the dumbfounding choice to have most of the cast speak in pronounced Irish and Scottish accents - but the movie's utter lack of focus is unforgivable. A film with nearly three hours of screen time needs a strong central narrative to drive it forward. Instead Stone (who co-wrote the script) flits from scene to scene, changing gear rapidly from historical epic to intimate portrait to tragic love story. Combined with some appallingly stilted and wordy dialogue, you soon have a film that is a strain to follow. This sort of strain might be acceptable in a 90-minute thriller, where the audience can enjoy figuring out the movie's twist, but in a three-hour historical epic it is simply tiring.
Yet "Alexander" might still have been rescued by an utterly compelling lead role - a charismatic powerhouse to anchor this woolly project and give it some guts. Alas Colin Farrell, for all his animal magnetism, is just not cut out for the job. Even with a flawless script he would still drown in the demands of the role, like a teenager flopping about in a grown man's suit. He spends most of the movie with a puzzled, slightly hurt expression that seems to stand for every emotion from anger to determination to anguish to longing. I think Farrell has all the makings of a fine leading man, but he is out of his depth here, and appears to be getting no help from his director.
The rest of the impressive cast give solid if ordinary performances, but without a central axis on which to turn their efforts are largely wasted. Angelina Jolie stands out as Alexander's scheming mother, Olympias, but this is more due to her luscious good looks and her vampire countess accent (by far the silliest in the film), than to her performance. Val Kilmer plays Alexander's drunken bully of a father Philip, and appears to be on autopilot for most of the role.
One positive aspect of the film is the breathtaking visual beauty of many of the scenes. Stone is an absolute master with the camera and his cinematographers and art directors stretch their craft to the maximum in lavish battle scenes and intricately crafted interiors. Sadly these jewels are lost amidst the misdirected fluff and padding.
For all their visual beauty, the two main battle scenes are ultimately disappointing. Instead of rousing or exciting us, Stone holds us at arms length, showing off his incredible attention to detail instead of pulling us into the moment. The depths to which he is willing to go for the sake of accuracy will probably impress history buffs, but exact details are not going to fire up most fans of epic battle scenes. If you're expecting "Gladiator" style thrills, then you'll be sorely disappointed. Even the lukewarm costume drama "Troy" has more visceral appeal.
To his credit Oliver Stone could never be accused of laziness or penny pinching. "Alexander" is obviously the product of vast amounts of money, love, sweat and tears. He is also innocent of politically correct cow-towing, never hesitating to explore sensitive topics like Alexander's bi-sexuality or his often senseless caprice. Stone is not out to re-create the legend - he is out to rediscover the man. But he forgets that he is rediscovering this man for the benefit of his audience, and not just to please himself.- Alistair Fairweather
Just another typical Tom Cruise action film, with nothing to get too excited about. The film is loaded with action-film stereotypes and cheesy one-liners. Read More »
Add your review
Hands of Stone is a bland, unlikable portrayal of a real-life boxer that struggles to hit the highs of Rocky IV let alone Raging Bull or the original Rocky. Mark this one down as “for boxing fanatics only”. Read More »
Add your review
South AfricaCity Press
Johannesburg CBDResourcing Solutions
HousesR 1 750 000
HousesR 2 495 000
HousesR 1 985 000