Alexander: The Ultimate Cut (Oliver Stone, 2004) – The art of filmmaking is a complex beast at the best of times. A piece of cinema can be seen as a living breathing entity with a myriad of opportunities and possible outcomes inside what was shot and how it’s ultimately assembled. The best of directors struggle with this, but rarely do directors play it out on in public and try to get audiences to buy the same films as many times as Oliver Stone has with his 2004 dude, Alexander. After a ‘Theatrical Cut’, a ‘Director’s Cut’ and ‘The Final Cut’, Stone’s period epic is celebrating its 10th anniversary and is finally being put to bed (he swears) as Alexander: The Ultimate Cut is now available on Blu-Ray.
Less of a historically accurate chronicle and more of a classical epic that captures more spirit then fact, Alexander is of Alexander The Great (Colin Farrell), famed conqueror of Greece, Persia, Afghanistan, India, basically 90% of the world at the time. He never lost a battle except for his most personal ones. He had mommy (Angelina Jolie) and daddy (Val Kilmer) issues, and his ambition, like many historical greats, would be his downfall.
Obviously not a historical document but more of character study, Alexander got justly panned, but it has settled nicely with each passing effort by Stone to refine the mess he initially made with this one being the best. It’s a “go big or go home: type of effort, and very much the work of an auteur like Stone. It takes a set of brass balls to go for something this big and so awkward and inaccessible all at the same time. It’s a film that gets better as it gets longer, with these extended cuts giving a great deal more pomp & circumstance giving, but it always walks a fine line between excess and taking itself far too seriously. Stone was trying to do a large scale, lavish epic and a raw and unvarnished look at the excesses of the time, but he really only half committed to each part of it. It isn’t accurate enough to be important and not excessive enough to be fun or interesting.
The cast has the same problem, never being quite too sure on which side of the scales to bring their performances. Farrell is an excellent choice for the title role as he plays domineering, vulnerable, sensitive and enraged all at the same time. Angelina Jolie plays it to the hilt as his passionate and vengeful mother and Kilmer similarly chews the scenery. Unfortunately none of the supporting players never really get a chance to register, as the flashbacks of his younger days only progress Alexander as a character. His march across the world and the battles were tell more than any other human element.
The difference between Stone’s self described ‘Cecil B Demille’ Final Cut and this Alexander: The Ultimate Cut is a mere 8 minutes. Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are quite good, and the special features include a new feature length Ultimate Cut commentary track with Stone, a historical documentary about the real Alexander, and a fascinating feature length behind the scenesdocumentary directed by Oliver’s own son Sean Stone. (Dave Voigt)