New Page 1

Home About Membership Contact Despatches Supplies Forum Gallery News


a review of Oliver Stone's film

by Peter Hunt


I saw Alexander last night having been put off initially by the reviews, and because Oliver Stone sometimes plays a bit fast and loose with history.

Go See!

The reason that this movie got bad reviews is because it is not a "sand and sandal" Hollywood epic like "Troy" that takes a known story but twists it for dramatic effect, sanitizes the bits that don't sit well with the bulk of the audience or the star's image, (Achilles and Patrocolus being lovers,) and modernises and Americanises the dialogue.

"Alexander" seemed to me to be almost perfect in its uncompromising attention to history and historical detail.  It is really a dramatised historical documentary with narration by Sir Anthony Hopkins.  There is absolutely no dumbing down.  If you have no idea about Greek myths, tough, because they are not explained.  If you have never heard of Marakanda, Sogdia and Bactria , tough, because they are not called Samarkand or Afghanistan .  If you can't get on with Greek names, tough. If you can't handle heroes being gay (or at least preferring men to women), tough. If you can't handle a historical narrative without the facts being twisted to provide a dramatic denouement, or worse still, a happy ending, tough!

The historical detail in "Alexander" is flawless. The clothes, uniforms, equipment and behaviour, even most of the tactics, are perfectly done.  A lot of this isn't explained to the general viewer.  Thus as Alexander goes further east you see him and his solid supporters wearing make-up and Persians appearing amongst his companions, but the significance of this would be lost on Joe Average.

Some of the script writing and direction could have been better, and great historical dialogue is not used to the best advantage: "Alexander does not steal a victory" and "If I was Parmenio I would accept that offer too," are almost throw away lines when they could have been used to much more dramatic effect.

When they want the Macedonians to come across as hardy, highland, not very well educated, but hard bastard types, they have Irish or Scots accents.  This might seem a bit odd (even perhaps offensive to Irish and Scots), but it worked for me. Having a very hairy Craterus telling Alexander to turn back in a Scottish burr: "I stand for nay bellyaching in any o' mah units Alexander, yee know that, but..." is a really good scene.

There were only two minor contractions and both were acceptable: the murder of Black Cleiutus happened before the Indian expedition, not during it, and Alexander did not get his life threatening wound at Hydaspes but shortly afterwards.  The movie is already nearly three hours long so something has to be cut and contracted.

All in all I can perfectly understand why this movie didn't go down well with the Friday night teenage crowd, but I think that smart chaps like you will really appreciate it.  It's so sad that "Braveheart" got Oscars and "Alexander" is getting Raspberries.

Two thumbs up and four and a half stars!

back to despatches