It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
When the mighty fall, it is from a greater height. So it was with Alexander the Great, and so it is with Oliver Stone's "Alexander." Here is an ambitious and sincere film that fails to find a focus for its elusive subject. Stone is fascinated by two aspects of Alexander: his pan-nationalism and his pan-sexualism. He shows him trying to unite many peoples under one throne while remaining equally inclusive with his choices of lovers.
But it remains unclear if Alexander has united those peoples or simply conquered them, and his sexuality is made murky by the film's shyness about gay sex and its ambiguity about Alexander's relationships with his "barbarian" bride and his tigress mother. We welcome the scenes of battle, pomp and circumstance because at least for a time we are free of sociopolitical concepts and the endless narration of Ptolemy the historian, who functions here like the Bill Kurtis of antiquity ("No tyrant ever gave back so much ...").
The facts are quickly summarized. Alexander (Colin Farrell) is the son of Philip of Macedonia (Val Kilmer) and Queen Olympias (Angelina Jolie). As a boy, he sees his drunken father all but rape his mother, who for her part insists Alexander's actual father is Zeus, but doesn't give details. Young Alexander impresses his father by taming an intractable horse, but both mother and son are banished from the kingdom, Olympias advising her son to seize the throne before Philip has him murdered. As things work out, Philip is murdered, and Alexander rules Macedonia.
Still a very young man, he sets out to conquer the known world. Told by Aristotle (Christopher Plummer) where the world ends, he finds it keeps on going, and so he keeps on conquering, defeating the other Greek city states, the Persians and all the other peoples he confronts until he is finally defeated not so much by the rulers of India as by India itself. He dies at 32.