Hari's Reviews

Hari's reviews on books, movies, television and more

Alexander (2004)

Created: Sat Mar 20 20:59:44 2010 | Last modified: Sat Mar 20 20:59:44 2010

Rating: ******----

Year: 2004
Language: English
Starring: Colin Farrell, Val Kilmer, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins
Direction: Oliver Stone
Music: Vangelis
External Link: IMDb


"Alexander" is a intensely dramatic story of Alexander the Great, the Greek emperor who strode across half the world in search of conquest and glory. This is a long, but powerful movie that tries to capture the spirit of this man and does the job quite well. It's difficult to watch the movie and not be moved by surges of emotion - be it the martial undertone of the background music, the wonderful and barbaric war scenes, or the personal conflicts between Alexander and his generals. Although the pace of the story is slow, the action is gripping at all times.

From a purely historic point of view, somebody unfamiliar with the history of Alexander may not be able to appreciate the backdrop of the story because the movie doesn't explain much. Even the battle scenes are quite confusing and unless you know what Alexander is fighting for, you might be a bit bewildered. However, because of the essential simplicity of the underlying idea (that Alexander wanted to conquer lands to the East), it becomes fairly easy to understand as you continue watching. The source of tension between Alexander and his men is also quite obvious - Alexander wants to continue marching on to eastern lands (India) while his army is reluctant to push forward. His men also do not share his vision and his broad-mindedness in accepting cultures other than their own. How Alexander eventually persuades his men to fight is quite a feat and is captured quite brilliantly by this movie.

To put things into perspective, this is not a documentary - this is a movie and so you'll not find much emphasis on exactly what Alexander achieved as a general and a king, but more about Alexander the person and the relationships he had with his closest associates, as seen through the eyes of Oliver Stone. The nature of the storytelling reflects this focus. As a result, if you're looking for a historically enlightening version, you might be disappointed since the movie is very sketchy in covering the details of Alexander's military conquests (there are only two full-fledged battle scenes in the movie) and many of his great accomplishments are skimmed over in short explanatory sequences much like a regular documentary film. But the movie does a great job in trying to analyze Alexander's personal life, his motivations and his personality. It is a powerful historical drama and should be treated as such and the background score does a great job in maintaining the right mood throughout. While the accents of the actors are funny (Irish?) it's easy to overlook this aspect. The acting is a bit over the top in some scenes, but that is to be expected and even appreciated in a movie such as this. Colin Farrell as the great emperor touches the heart and shows a very human and vulnerable side of the man. The sets are also quite brilliant and the director shows meticulous attention to detail in capturing the feel of that era. In particular, the panoramic scenes are a visual delight.

All said and done, this movie is a treat to watch on a boring Sunday evening. You won't come away educated from a historic perspective, but you will be intrigued enough to look for more in the history books about this great conqueror. And that is always a good thing for a movie to achieve. I'd rate it 4/5.