Elderly Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) who once served under the great Alexander (Colin Farrell) narrates the life story of the man the myth the legend--the son of the ambitious King Philip (Val Kilmer) who surpassed his father at every level and charged into the farthest reaches of the world. From early childhood in Macedonia we see where Alexander gets his drive--mostly from his vengeful snake-lovin' mother Olympias (Angelina Jolie) who urges her son to take charge as well from his tutor Aristotle (Christopher Plummer). Even in the taming of his unbreakable horse Bucephalas at 10 years old Alexander's destiny is evident. The heart of the film lies in Persia which Alexander conquers in one of the most studied military battles of all time. Alexander spends a great deal of time there--taking in the culture claiming its riches and marrying a Bactrian princess Roxane (Rosario Dawson)--much to the chagrin of his Macedonian generals who are stuck in this foreign land with their king. Despite this success Alexander grows restless and turns his attention to the rest of the world including the unexplored regions of India. With his army stretched thin and his Macedonian troops longing for home Alexander presses them one campaign too far. Succumbing to a mysterious illness at age 33 Alexander dies never quite finding what he so desperately searched for.
Although some may scoff at casting the Irish actor in the lead Farrell does an admirable job playing the tortured hero blond wig and all. He exudes plenty of wide-eyed fury and intensity as Alexander the warrior balanced by the controlled calculation of a hyper-effective military commander although he isn't nearly as effective as the idealistic pre-world-conqueror Alexander as he is spiraling down into the haunted angst-ridden Alexander at the end of his obsessive crusade. Casting Jolie as Olympias is a stroke of genius. Sure Jolie can play a smart and beautiful woman in her sleep but her beauty is surpassed only by the power she imbues as Alexander's bitter yet loving mother; she's as hypnotic as the snakes she carries around. Kilmer relishes his role as Alexander's father Philip in all of his grotesque wine-soaked glory. Powerful driven and battle-scarred Kilmer's Philip knows precisely what he wants and matches Jolie's quiet intensity with the raw aggressive masculinity of a warrior king who is far more comfortable in his armor than a toga. In the supporting roles Hopkins is great as always this time in the thankless role of the narrator while Dawson plays Roxane with a ferocity that is as mesmerizing as it is terrifying. Standout Jared Leto also turns in a concentrated performance as Hephaestion Alexander's long-time companion boyhood friend and the person who loves Alexander the best. (And we do mean love.)
Alexander is Oliver Stone at his best. An Alexander nut for most of his life the director gives us a film that--even in its loooong three-hour form--continuously holds your attention especially its intense and bloody battle scenes. I mean honestly once you've fought against an elephant in armor the plain old sword-and-shield skirmishes pale in comparison. Alexander also possesses a great breadth of visuals: Alexandria's peace Pella's tension Babylon's opulence and India's richness. Yet as wonderful as the landscapes are it's personal interactions and internal politics that drive the story--and of course Stone's penchant for conspiracy theories as he more than insinuates Alexander was poisoned by his enemies rather than dying of an "unknown" illness. But a problem still remains: Alexander's life was so huge and he did so much that it's almost impossible to encapsulate it effectively into one film. Stone instead has to focus on what he thinks is the most important namely Alexander's renowned conquests while allowing the pressure cooker in which the young conqueror grew up--the triangle of mother father and son--come through in the decisions he makes later in life. For those few of us who have studied Alexander Stone has made this film especially for us. If you haven't spent any time reading Arrian and the other histories this excellent film might just inspire you to do so.
November 09, 2001 1:43pm EST
Robbie Williams won best male singer at the MTV Europe Music Awards on Thursday, Reuters reports. The British singer, who won the best song award last year, gave a bleak acceptance speech, saying his earlier claim to be "living the dream" turned out to be wrong. "I'm very humbled to receive an award from MTV once again. Last year I was very arrogant with my acceptance speech," he said. "This year it's completely different." He closed his address by saying, "Live the nightmare."
Also at the MTV Europe Music Awards, virtual band Gorillaz, who picked up the best song award for "Clint Eastwood," spoke out about the current bombing in Afghanistan. According to Reuters, lead singer Damon Albarn sported a CND T-shirt and told the crowd, "This is the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Bombing the poorest countries in the world is wrong."
Members of the British band Depeche Mode said that the Sept. 11 hijack attacks had hardly affected European musicians and concertgoers, Reuters reports. The group's keyboardist Andy Fletcher said that because Europeans had had more experience with terror attacks than the United States, they were able to get on with their lives more quickly. "It's not to say the attacks are not awful," he said. "But we are more used to it in Europe."
Recording companies and musicians reached an agreement Wednesday to pay artists' royalties from cable, satellite, and Internet broadcasts directly to the artists rather than to the recording companies, Reuters reports. The agreement means artists and copyright holders will be able to collect money, rather than have their record labels collect for distribution.
A superior court judge has ruled that Lisa Agbalaya's lawsuit accusing James Brown and his company of sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and retaliation could proceed to trial, The Associated Press reports. The judge, however, dismissed one section of Agbalaya's lawsuit that accused the 68-year-old singer of discriminating against all female employees.
A series of TV commercials aimed at boosting New York City's tourism were previewed at City Hall Thursday. One ad features Woody Allen ice skating at Rockefeller Center, Barbara Walters auditioning for a Broadway show and Henry Kissinger sliding into home plate at Yankee Stadium wearing a suit and tie. Other ads feature Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro and Yogi Berra, AP reports.
HBO is in talks with documentarian Peter Kuhnhardt to make a film about New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and how he and his City Hall team handled the Sept. 11 crisis, Variety reports. The film will help raise money for the Twin Towers Fund, formed by Giuliani.
Mark Wahlberg and Hugh Jackman may be starring in Intermedia Films' Pride and Glory, Variety reports. The project centers on a three-generation family of New York City cops torn apart by revelations of a corruption scandal.
Nicole Kidman is in negotiations to star in Revolution Studios' The Forgotten. According to Variety, the project follows a man and a woman in their 30s who join forces to search for answers to the unsolved abduction of children.
Ben Stiller and his Red Hour Films banner have signed a three-year first-look deal with DreamWorks. DreamWorks reportedly paid $2.6 million to Warner Bros. for Stiller's next project, an adaptation of Budd Schulberg's novel What Makes Sammy Run. Stiller will direct the film and star as hustler Sammy Glick.
In an interview published on Thursday in TV Guide, Michael Jackson said he will build a computer school on the grounds of his Neverland estate so his children, Prince, 4, and Paris, 3, won't have to go "into society." Jackson also plans on making a movie with Liza Minnelli about two struggling entertainers trying to make it, Reuters reports.
Fox's new drama 24 starring Kiefer Sutherland failed to beat out ABC's cop drama NYPD Blue in the Tuesday night battle for ratings, Variety reports. While 24 posted decently, a November sweeps premiere opposite NYPD Blue and NBC's Frasier proved too tall an order. Network execs admitted to being surprised that more viewers did not sample the new show.