Alexander

Release date: Nov. 24

Distributor: Warner Bros.

Oscar alumni: Anthony Hopkins (actor, “The Silence of the Lambs”), Angelina Jolie (supporting actress, “Girl, Interrupted”), Oliver Stone (director, “Platoon,” “Born on the Fourth of July”; adapted screenplay, “Midnight Express”), Jenny Beavan (costume design, “A Room With a View), Vangelis (original score, “Chariots of Fire”)

When he’s on his game, Oliver Stone is a powerhouse director. But with “Alexander” still unseen at press time, it’s uncertain if this is the thoughtfully provocative helmer of “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July” or the over-the-top director of “Nixon” and “On Any Given Sunday.”

“Alexander” is new territory for the Oscar-winning filmmaker, who usually deals with contentious aspects of American history or hot-button topics such as media violence. “Alexander” will likely avoid the passionate debate generated by “JFK” and “Natural Born Killers” and, along with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ soft spot for historical epics, this could constitute less of a gamble among voters.

The biggest question surrounding the film is the performance of blonde-dyed Irishman Colin Farrell in the lead. It’s Farrell’s most ambitious role after a series of films that have relied mostly on his physical magnetism. It’s also the kind of weighty, complex character that cries out for best actor consideration. This might be the kind of epic that sinks or swims on the shoulders of its leading man, a la “Gladiator.”

Stone generally elicits strong performances from his actors, and Oscar winners Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins could draw attention again.

The Academy has always considered Stone a serious writer. Though screenplay credit is shared with relative newcomers Christopher Kyle and Laeta Kalogridis, the huge task of condensing “Alexander’s” story to film, with a psychologically complex hero, will not be taken lightly — and will no doubt generate debate regarding the film’s historical accuracy.

Tech categories should have an impressive run, though “Alexander” does have to compete with other pics re-creating ancient times in “Troy” and “The Passion of the Christ.” The immense battle scenes filmed on four continents and re-creations of ancient locales such as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon likely will be right up the Academy’s alley for costumes and art direction, as will the opportunities the exotic locales provide for rising d.p. Rodrigo Prieto (“21 Grams,” “Frida”).

Greek composer Vangelis is on home turf with this material, though stepping out of the shadow of his “Chariots of Fire” score will require a truly outstanding effort.

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