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film: Alexander

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Alexander 4/5

Yet another sword and sandal film, and one which references the hero Achilles several times. Troy and Gladiator seem succinct in comparison to this three hour story about Alexander the Great, a well-known historical figure who is famous but whose story is not as well known as his fame would suggest. But, at the same time, those two films seem almost pedestrian compared to the complexities of Alexander. Such subtleties either resonate with viewers or they don’t. They did for me.

The child of a broken marriage, that Alexander (Colin Farell) amounted to anything is a bit of a surprise, according to how the film portrays his father, King Phillip (Val Kilmer)and his mother, Olypias (Angelina Jolie). Phillip, king of the Macedonians, is a crude, womanizing drunkard, while Olympias is a creepy, snake-loving follower of Dionysous. She actually initiates the young Alexander into holding snakes so as to lose his fear, and teach the lesson of fearing nothing. Phillip teaches Alexander not to trust women, while his mother so hated Phillip that she was suspected as playing a role in his assignation.

Phillip did insist on his son learning from the finest mind in the land. Aristotle, played by Christopher Plummer, explains how the far reaches of the known earth were unnavigated, but promised a water route encompassed all of the land. Whoever could take advantage of such a route would surely be a great ruler.

In one of the first battles, Alexander plans a way to defeat a much larger army, who were gathering in the area. It’s risky, but he’s completely convinced that it will work. It’s also one of the most intelligent battles on film. I’m actually watching a documentary right now on the Discovery channel that is discussing this one particular battle.

Battle after battle, they press on towards the east. It’s a grueling, multi-year campaign. Along the way, they topple tyrant kings and gain the affection of the people. Look for the spectacular scenes in Babylon.

In one scene, he goes into a fit with his key advisors, not because they disagree with his perspective, but because he’s angry that they refuse to try understand a world unknown to them.

You can’t watch this film and not comment on the scenes that either hint at or overtly portray his homosexuality and his love for one of his childhood companions. He and a man-servant character are very doe-eyed, having not scrimped on the eye liner. His affection for these characters is never done in a gratuitous fashion. You’ll wonder if his upbringing contributed to his disinterest in females.

The acting is fine throughout. The soundtrack by Vangelis is great. The costumes and sets are a tribute to detail. Oliver Stone’s direction is without grave error. Alexander is a spectacular film. It doesn’t tell a story that can be as easily fit into a neat little package, like most films of this ilk. For that reason, it’s receiving bad reviews. I would say that if you are at all interested in seeing this film, see it and you be the judge.

And it didn’t seem overly long to me and I would be happy to see it again.

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About Triniman

Almost weekly, Triniman catches new movies, and adds one or two CDs to his collection. Due to time constraints, he blogs about only 5% of the CDs, books and DVDs that he purchases. Holed up in the geographic centre of North America, the cultural mecca of Canada, and the sunniest city north of the 49th, Winnipeg, Triniman blogs a bit when he's not swatting mosquitoes, shoveling snow or golfing.
  • The Theory

    i haven’t seen this, but the trailers and previews make it feel like it’s trying too much to tap into the same emotion as The Gladiator.

    I want to know how often Colin Ferall watched The Gladiator’s battle motivation speech to prepare for his.

  • TheCO

    This is the first positive review of this film i’ve seen… I may have to actually go see it.

  • visualsimplicity

    TheCO, I hope you’re not going in with renewed high expectations for this film. I went in with low expectations and still came away disappointed.

    It was, in essence, an extremely long and fancy historical documentary. I think what really killed the movie was the fact that they did it using naration (the movie is told in storytelling fashion by one of Alexander’s generals). So in effect, instead of showing us what happened, they told us what happened. There’d be a battle, then there’d be a long naration bit explaining what happened in the aftermath.

    Even with all the substance of the message, the style just wasn’t executed very well.