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Alexander - abridged version disappointing: Review

Oliver Stone has given us some wonderful cinema, but his latest, “Alexander”, is certainly not one of his best. Or, one would believe so, because the version that has been released in India (February 2005, in Madras/Chennai) has been abridged by nearly a half. The original is 176 minutes long, but I saw an under 100-minute work, where some of the controversial aspects, such as Alexander’s bisexual tendency that got Greeks mad, have been dealt in passing.

The tenderness between Alexander (Colin Farrell) and his longtime lover, Hephaistion (Jared Leto), and the Macedonian king’s romp with his wildcat wife, Roxane (Rosario Dawson), have been handled with restraint, but these are merely very brief glimpses of what Stone is capable of delivering. The Indian edition of the movie lays a lot of emphasis on battle scenes, and there is one particular episode that has been spectacularly captured from a bird’s eye view.

Angelina Jolie and Colin Farrell
“Alexander” begins with Olympias (his mother, played impressively by Angelina Jodie) doting on her little son that soon begins to take on an incestuous and almost evil shape with the woman teaching the little boy how to handle snakes. However, the movie’s attention soon turns to Alexander’s obsession to find the end of the world, and conquer all that lies on the way. He pushes through Egypt and Persia to finally arrive in India, where Stone’s story tells us that Phorus kills Alexander. But, history has something else to say: the Macedonians by their sheer cavalry power defeated Phorus with his army of cumbersome elephants, but Alexander, touched by the Indian ruler’s courage, gives him back his kingdom.

Taking liberties with historical facts may be perfectly justified in the name of artistic licence, but what appears rather difficult to accept is Stone’s confusion in trying to decide whether Alexander was just a tyrant or a benevolent despot. One would suppose that many helmers reach a juncture in their career when they begin to see a trace of themselves in some great men. Francis Ford Coppola saw a bit of Preston Tucker, the automotive innovator, in himself, while Martin Scorsese and Mel Gibson each had Jesus. In the end, I got the impression that Stone saw a hero in Alexander, despite his rapacious conquests and selfishness. The film is often littered with blood and gore, and the savagery of limbs being strewn about does not deter Stone from placing a halo around Alexander.

(This review appeared in The Hindu dated February 11 2005)

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