The Alamo

| April 10, 2004

When telling a true story with a lot of history, it is difficult to do it well enough to immediately bring the viewer into the plot. With The Alamo, this was director John Lee Hancock’s task. In what was a very choppy first 20 minutes, Hancock (The Rookie) did give us the most salient points, though, and succeeded in creating a very good movie about the 1836 siege of Texas’ most famous fort.
In the early years of the United States (before Texas was a state), The Alamo stood at a geographic crossroad and that made it a very valuable commodity. The land began as part of Mexico and the Texans wanted to create their own country (current politics being what they are, it is a pity they did not succeed). We witness the two week struggle for the fort ending in the attack and capitulation of the fort to Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (Emilio Echevarria from Die Another Day).
So what did they do for two weeks? They learned an awful lot about Davy Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton from Bad Santa, Tombstone), watched James Bowie (Jason Patric from Narc) suffer through consumption, and witnesses Lt. Col. William Travis (Patrick Wilson from Angels in America) become the leader he always wanted to be, albeit too late to save his life and the lives of the 150 men who were in his charge.
Since this is a war movie, I am asked about the battle scenes. If that is why you are going to the movie, to witness an epic battle scene, you should, instead rent last year’s Master and Commander, or any one of the three movies from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Or Patton. Or Band of Brothers. Or Saving Private Ryan. Or The Last Samurai. Or… well, lots of other movies. The Alamo was good, but it is nowhere near the epic battle type of film.
I was very impressed with Thornton’s version of the famous Tennessee statesman / pioneer and Patric’s James Bowie. Both Crockett and Bowie are able, together, to confront the legends of their past in a very unique manner. Likewise, the treatment of the Mexican army was wonderful. I am truly glad that Hancock allowed the Mexican soldiers to speak spanish and use subtitles for us gringos. It added to the realism of the movie and to my enjoyment of the film. It also made it possible for him to include the final moments of Crocket’s life which added a final chapter to his legendary life.
But when it comes to the best movies of this or any other year, The Alamo is not really worth remembering.

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