The Revisited 2007 version of this film is, in my opinion, one of the most underappreciated in movie history. Maybe because of its controversial director (Oliver Stone) or because of its frank and open sexuality shown at the time, this final cut, released after the theatrical version, hasn’t been as widely accepted as Braveheart for example, although can stand next to Gibson‘s epic in its majesty, power, and with a heart as brave.
It’s not easy to portray a bisexual historical figure as important as the Macedonian conqueror in an engaging, accurate, and entertaining way. Consider the version made in the 1950’s, played by Richard Burton, a cartoonish and uninspired looking film that even looked bad when standing next to the sword and sandal epics of its time. Contrary to the criticisms to actor Colin Farrell‘s as Alexander for his appearance and inexperience, I think that’s what makes him more believable as a young man who dreamed to conquer the world while surrounded by family drama and intrigue.
Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) tells us his story. Not omitting Alexander’s defects in character, he makes us understand him and admire his greatness as a visionary conqueror. Val Kilmer plays King Phillip, a father as complicated and abusive as manipulative Queen Olympia. Angelina Jolie plays an also convincing, complex, and controlling Olympia (Alexander’s mother). But the key scenes in this film are the ones that put the seal of epicness and stir the viewer’s emotions. With the rich photography by Rodrigo Prieto and the solemn music by Vangelis, one of these is the Battle of Gaugamela, where we watch the courage and vulnerability of the young hero. The other scene is the battle in India, filmed with real elephants. There we can watch and feel the love and devotion of his friends and army when they rush to help him after facing the beasts almost alone. The scene is unforgettable. Even his beloved horse fights to save him. Director Stone uses slow motion and a palette of intense colors to highlight this outstanding moment with this, a very uncommon and effective technique.
This is a film about heroism, ambition, and big dreams surrounded by family dysfunction and excessive power.
See also directed by Oliver Stone: U-Turn (1997), JFK (1991), The Doors (1991), Platoon (1986), Salvador (1986)
See also Colin Farrell in: Saving Mr. Banks (2013), Phone Booth (2002), Ask the Dust (2006).
Enjoy Rodrigo Prieto’s Cinematography in: Frida (2002), We Bought a Zoo (2011), Passengers (2016).