starring Colin Farrell, Anthony Hopkins, Val Kilmer, Angelina Jolie, Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson and Christopher Plummer
written by Oliver Stone, Christopher Kyle and Laeta Kalaogridis
directed by Oliver Stone
Thank goodness for the acting of Anthony Hopkins (Ptolemy, ruler of Egypt) and Angelina Jolie (Alexander’s mother, Olympias) which pretty much save this otherwise mediocre story of the rise and fall of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) If you want to see a better movie featuring ancient Greece with good representations of ancient battle - man-to-man sword fighting on foot, cavalry and chariot charges - then last year’s Troy, starring Brad Pitt as legendary warrior Achilles and Peter O’toole as King Priam, although not a great movie itself, is better than Alexander. Val Kilmer as Alexander’s father, Philip of Macedon, is a trial to watch. Colin Farrell’s portrayal of the golden-haired, beardless, pretty-boy, gay Alexander is annoying at least and completely lacks any feeling of charisma, which any great leader needs. Instead, throughout the whole movie Farrell’s portrayal of the great man is one of a closeted gay man struggling to the point of madness with his urges - urges not at all forbidden in contemporary Greek culture. His portrayal is of a weakling Alexander, which is not what I want to see and which I find difficult to sync with the reality of his accomplishments.
As always with historical dramas, there is some legitimate history to be learned. But be wary of Hollywood renditions and remember that what you see on television and in the movies is entertainment, not reality. I grew up - having studied ancient history in due course - with high regard for figures like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, etc. Ancient history was taught in such a manner that I was supposed to revere them - strong, heroic, genius figures ahead of their time, with global visions striving to pull the world with them into the future. But another legitimate view is that such people were borderline-barbaric psychopaths, tyrants gone mad with a vision and the power to purse it. Inbreeding and too much wine, I think.
In this film, Alexander is undone by his failure to reach the edges of the known world and by the revolt of his army, in present-day Afghanistan and India, against continuing a seemingly endless pursuit of a mad expedition into the unknown, the purpose of which no one but Alexander himself could perceive. Indeed, the world was far larger than people at that time imagined. This is how Alexander’s campaigns were summarized when I studied him in high school.
But in this post-9/11 world with an ongoing, American-led War on Terror - waged in precisely the same geographic region that Alexander conquered more than 2,000 years ago - the scriptwriters have reshaped the man as some kind of ancient Yankee prototype - a liberty-spreading, world unifying globalizer: a kind of 4thcentury B.C. George Bush. What disgusting, ugly hogwash!