The Best Moments in Film History: The Battle of Hydaspes in “Alexander”

Before you read any further let me be clear about something: the Oliver Stone biopic of Alexander was a less than successful attempt at storytelling, without heart, lacking in pace and creativity.  Having said that, and leaving behind all of the dull intricacies that the film inexplicably chose to focus on, the sequence that showcases the famous Battle of Hydaspes is a welcomed escape from an otherwise forgettable movie.

It is perhaps Stone’s greatest achievement in the more than 2 hours of film, but also his greatest failure as it showed me all that the film could have been but was not. Such an extraordinary life deserved a film that translated all of it into an unforgettable feast for the eyes. Sadly, what we got was little more than a creepy and ineffective Angelina Jolie and a dirty blonde Colin Farrel who was terribly uninspiring as the Macedonian general.

The battle sequence comes toward the end of the movie as it was, historically, also one of the last great victories of Alexander in his advance towards the east. Though historically inaccurate, what Stone proposes is certainly a fitting ending to a military advance that changed the world and made Alexander the most powerful man in the ancient world. As shown in the film, the battle was surprisingly tough for the Macedonian forces who did not expect such an organized and determined opposition. The disgruntled Indian War Elephants were certainly striking and shocking, and the film does a great job at making some of the fear that was probably felt by the warriors jump out of the screen and into the audience.

Seeing the prospect of a defeat, Alexander needed to get his forces together and rally forward, pushing the Indian army back. In a moment of brilliance, Stone’s Alexander charges forward and the film resorts to light, a moving score and slow-motion to capture the moment in which Alexander rallies his Macedonian men as they turn in admiration toward their general who is leading the charge all on his own. Not too long after, Alexander faces a giant Elephant war horse that he wants to take down. This is certainly a moment that borders on epic cliche as both the horse and the Elephant raise their front feet as their masters struggle to make the first blow.  However, the battle sequence hovered over my expectations and it relieved me from the dullness of the film, grabbing my attention back and putting me at the edge of my seat.

Stone brilliantly closes the shot with a wounded Alexander who after failing to take down his enemy, collapses injured on the ground.  The hue of the film changes, now turning dark, taking a reddish pigmentation that evokes the blood of war. The image is powerful, effective and unforgettable. Stone’s Alexander had finally managed to look less than godly and, in the process, make me a fan not because he was a good likeable man, but because he was an amazing and inspiring human being. The Battle of Hydaspes sequence was the only instance in which I felt compelled to shake Alexander’s hand, just like one of the many faithful warriors that fought alongside him during the entire campaign.

The image of his soldiers fighting to protect their general while giving their life speaks about the greatness of the man in question, one that we barely got to see during the film but that manages to peek out at the Battle of Hydaspes. Stone used color brilliantly and his shots were unexpected and creative, successfully delivering a climax that should have belonged to a better film.

To get a decent quality clip follow this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kyt4e-hYNOM&feature=related

Niels

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