The Alamo Review
By Shawn McKenzie 04/12/2004
I can’t say that I “remember the Alamo” too well. I don’t remember learning about it in school, so my only lengthy exposure to it before Disney’s The Alamo was Pee-Wee Herman’s quest to find his bike in the fort’s basement. I never saw the famed 1960 John Wayne version, so I didn’t know the story going in. I’ve been told by some that it is accurate and by others that it is completely wrong. All I can do is judge it as a movie, and that part of it didn’t go too well.
The Alamo was a former Franciscan mission in San Antonio, Texas, and it’s now an American fort in the Texan war of independence from Mexico. It’s 1836 and Lt. Col. William Travis (Patrick Wilson) has been sent to the Alamo by former Tennessee governor Sam Houston (Dennis Quaid) to fill in for Colonel Green Jameson (Tom Davidson) and Lt. Col. J.C. Neill (Brandon Smith.) Travis is so ambitious in his army career that he has left his pregnant wife Rosanna (Emily Deschanel), who divorces him for it, and his children. Texas army Col. Jim Bowie (Jason Patric) doesn’t think Travis can defend the fort adequately, so he kind of takes over with his militia men. Bowie is dying from consumption, so after taking over, he isn’t much help. Congressman and frontier legend Davy Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton) and his men also show up, after drinking buddy Houston convinces him to do so. Crockett is trying to live up to his image as the “Lion of the West,” an image that haunts him more than it helps him. Unfortunately, Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna (Emilio Echevarría) is leading an Army of thousands to storm the Alamo. The fort had less than two hundred men among them, so they had to prepare for the attack. Making things harder for the Texians is the declaration by Santa Anna that any non-white person would be allowed to come to Mexico and live without harm, which includes the slaves Joe (Edwin Hodge) and Sam (Afemo Omilami.) It also included Bowie’s sister-in-law Juana (Estephania LeBaron), but she stays because Bowie had married her Mexican sister. They send Mexican born Col. Juan Seguin (Jordi Mollà) to retrieve the American forces reinforcements from Houston to help them out. They don’t arrive right away, and if you “remember the Alamo,” the people left to defend the fort were defeated.
I’m not sure if I would have liked this better if I did know the story. It takes a long time to get to the battle, and maybe knowing a little more about the story might have made me care about the characters.
To its credit, there were some good performances, especially by Thornton. His portrayal of Crockett as a man who can’t escape his legend is almost Oscar-worthy. I had heard that some people feared he was going to portray Crockett as a wuss, but that is not the truth. He just made the man human. If the rest of the movie had been better, I think we’d be seeing his name on the Oscar ballot.
On the flipside, there were some bad performances, especially by Quaid. He portrays Houston as a wussy drunk, only to have him finally grow a pair in the end. When he finally gives the “Remember the Alamo” speech, it comes off as cheesy. It’s ironic that he did so bad in this movie since it was directed by John Lee Hancock, the man who had directed Quaid in his comeback movie The Rookie.
Like a comic book movie, sometimes I think that it might be an advantage to be ignorant of the source material of a historical drama so that you don’t have any pre-conceived expectations. If you are though, it helps that the movie is good in general. While Thornton was good, along with some impressive battle scenes, I didn’t like the movie overall. Oh, by the way…I looked and looked, and I couldn’t find the basement either.
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