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ALAMO, THE(director/writer: John Lee Hancock; screenwriters: Leslie Bohem/Stephen Gaghan; cinematographer: Dean Semler; editors: Eric L. Beason/Paul Covington; music: Carter Burwell; cast: Dennis Quaid (Gen. Sam Houston), Billy Bob Thornton (Davy Crockett), Jason Patric (Col. James Bowie), Patrick Wilson (Lt. Col. William Barret Travis), Jordi Mollà (Capt. Juan Seguin), Emilio Echevarría (Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna); Runtime: 135; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Ron Howard/Mark Johnson; Touchstone Pictures; 2004)

Forget The Alamo, that is this tedious movie and not the historical event!”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Forget “The Alamo,” that is this tedious movie and not the historical event! Director John Lee Hancock and screenwriters Leslie Bohem and Stephen Gaghan never bring the story to life and it moves flatly alongwithout a pulse until nearly at the two hour mark when the fighting starts. By that time, nothing could save this film.

The Alamo, a Franciscan mission built in 1715 that was converted into a military fortress, falls on March 6, 1836 when besieged by the Mexican army under the command of General Santa Anna (Emilio Echevarria). This came after a fierce 13-day battle fought between the nearly 200 Texan Revolutionaries who wanted to be free of Mexico in order to establish a republic. The troops consisted of volunteers and regular Texas troops and Tejanos (Mexican-born Texans) commanded by an eager but greenhorn Lt. Colonel Travis (Patrick Wilson), along with the presence of celebrities like Davey Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jim Bowie (Jason Patric), who fought against the dictator of Mexico’s well-equipped army of a few thousand. After the Alamo fell and everyone was killed, on April 21, 1836, General Sam Houston (Dennis Quaid) gathers together his rag-tag army of regulars and volunteer Texans in the Battle of San Jacinto, where he defeats Santa Anna’s splintered army in eighteen minutes. After capturing the egotistical dictator, he makes him sign a treaty for the independence of Texas in order to save his life. A few years later Texas became a state. Houston is shown as a coldly calculating and wise military man in the mold of a Wellington defeating Napolean in Waterloo, as Houston sacrificed the men at the Alamo in order to win the war at a time when the odds were in his favor to fight. Dennis Quaid reunites with Hancock, who had better luck directing him in “The Rookie.”

The film suffers the fate of most epics, as the characters are never drawn out and the story is presented in a leaden manner. During their stint in the Alamo Colonel Bowie is portrayed as a populist, ego-maniacal, knife-wielding, racist slaveholder, alcoholic, who is plagued with consumption and leads a pack of riff-raff militiamen. Davy Crockett is the former congressman from Tennessee, who has become a mythic-ally perceived wilderness adventurer who might have stretched the truth about some of his episodes but is an honest man and a crack shot, and with the mythology about him debunked he becomes humanized in the process. Davy even fiddles before the Alamo burns. The Tejano captain, Juan Seguin (Jordi Mollà), who’s assigned as a courier to flee the Alamo and inform Sam Houston of the need for more troops, is depicted as a man who wanted to fight and die with his men but obeyed orders not to return to the battle. Lt. Col. Travis at first comes across as an arrogant dandy, a debtor who left his pregnant wife and family to join the Alamo in order to get out of debt. But before the battle he proves himself to his embittered rival Bowie that he can be a fit leader. Travis, in a moving speech to the troops, tells them we came here for land and riches and now that we are here we will fight until our death as patriots, as we all have become better men for being here. But, unfortunately, the film itself was not as rousing as that speech. It was merely a chore to sit through this long drawn-out historical film. The details covered are nothing new, any high school social studies text should have covered that event.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”