After writing a phd dissertation and spending months doing research on the Alamo at The DRT library and across Texas, I became convinced that I might not live long enough to see a theatrical release that would finally do the history justice. The IMAX Alamo film is very good along historical lines, but due to budget limitations not to mention physiological IMAX constraints, it did not capture the scope and depth of the event. But make no mistake about it - this Alamo film does both. The Alamo's major participants are three dimensional flesh and blood mirror images of those one will find in their diaries, letters, books and first hand accounts of those who knew them. Even the Mexican dictator, Antonio Lopez Miguel De Santa Anna, is no longer a cardboard demon - he anticipates what Mexico will become without the stern hand that must come down to crush "the American pirates." Also, for the first time, the Tejanos who fought against their brothers and sisters in the Texas cause are well represented. The battle sequences culled from Santa Anna's own battle plans and the accounts of those who carried them out and those who survived, leave no nuance to the imagination and vividly demonstrate that even a chaotic retreat can turn into an unmanageable enemy force, overwhelming the west and north walls of the Alamo. The bloodbath, fury, chaos and desperation pulls the viewer into the center of a swirling vortex of courage and carnage. Patrick Wilson is his superb as Colonel William Barret Travis, the defacto commandante of the doomed fortress. For once, the multi emotional Travis is captured with all of the guilt ridden memories of his humiliating trial in Alabama, and the indecision that plagues his early confrontations with his sceptical Texan force. The ennui and angst of command did take a toll. But Travis' courage and conviction converge in a heart wrenching moment in front of his command, making the case for death with purpose. Jason Patric makes one wicked Jim Bowie and the fact that the Congress of the U.S is still trying to unravel some of his land swindles initiated almost two centuries ago underscores his portrayal. Bowie's legendary prowess in brawling, bilking and beating those around him is well known and Patrick's every move makes you instantly and consistently aware that Bowie was every bit the bad ass. But Bowie was also a romantic of epic proportions and flashbacks to his tragic marriage to Ursula Verimendi give a poignant underpinning to his deadliness. Billy Bob Thornton steals the show as David Crockett - but then - how could he miss? As Dennis Quaid said; "Billy Bob is David Crockett - A hillbilly actor playing a hillbilly actor." Thornton's performance is staggering. A self proclaimed over achiever and withering self critic, Thornton understands the very human David Crockett of his autobiography and letters, juxtaposed with the Davy Crockett of legends. It is a harrowing performance - particularly when Crockett realizes the Alamo is doomed. "David Crockett might drop over these walls and take his chances," he confides to Bowie. But Davy Crockett, the legend cannot. "People expect things," he tells Bowie. "I've been on these walls all my life." There is a palor and sadness that is worked beautifully by the modest film score. The photography paints Greek tragedy. These were and are real people. Many, many fans of the John Wayne ALAMO miss the overblown (but fun) saintliness of the celluloid 60's epic.For some, THE ALAMO 2004 is filled with defenders who were too human, historical facts be damned. But when Micajah Autrey and David die, I couldn't help but feel the pain of retrospection they both felt at that horrible moment. Add to this a wealth of metaphysical angst that is a subscript of this masterpiece. Tejano Catholic Voodoo guarantees the time, place and purpose of Bowie's demise. "Did it matter?" a dying Bowie asks a doomed Travis. "Buck's" face is a mask of hope and despair. These men will die not knowing if giving their lives will matter to anyone but themselves. Director John Lee Hancock does a marvelous job with subtleties that encompass great portions of Travis, Bowie and Crockett 's personality in particular. Did Crockett intentionally hit Santa Anna's epaulet? A second viewing revealed a gold reflection in the pupil of David's eye as he fires. How did Crockett die? He dies going down swinging inside the Alamo Church - but you never see his body. He dies a second time as one who refused to surrender. But you never see his body. ...And in the beginning of the film as you see the bodies of the defenders being carted away, you see Bowie and Travis, but not Crockett's. The last scene of the film is not a replay of the Crockett fiddle scene. There he is, playing over a nighttime San Antonio, alone - with no one in sight - and Billy Bob's "David" satisfied and almost bemused face in the final scene. What a gorgeous shot and a perfect way of tipping the hat to legend as well as a establishing while questioning the nature of immortality. When history is relevance and universal, what more could we ask? I feel for the people who made this movie. In this climate of blind nationalism - embracing history not despite of its flaws but because of them will not garner the recognition this film so richly deserves. There are those that truly appreciate your efforts and applaud you for THE ALAMO fim I've waited to see all of my life. This one like the real battle, will be remembered. Thank you so much!
Drama / History / War / Western
Drama / History / War / Western
Based on the 1836 standoff between a group of Texan and Tejano men, led by Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, and Mexican dictator Santa Anna's forces at the Alamo in San Antonio Texas.
July 1, 2020