In 1836 General Santa Anna and the Mexican army is sweeping across Texas. To be able to stop him, General Sam Houston needs time to get his main force into shape. To buy that time he orders... See full summary »
In the late 1800s, somewhere in the West, two cowboys, the laconic Tar and the prolix Slope, sit by a daytime campfire eating beans. Their cattle are somewhere nearby. Slope begins to ... See full summary »
Billy Bob Thornton,
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Billy Bob Thornton,
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Scott Michael Campbell
Historical drama detailing the 1835-36 Texas revolution before, during, and after the famous siege of the Alamo (February 23-March 6, 1836) where 183 Texans (American-born Texans) and Tejanos (Mexican-born Texans) commanded by Colonel Travis, along with Davey Crockett and Jim Bowie, were besieged in an abandoned mission outside San Antonio by a Mexican army of nearly 2,000 men under the personal command of the dictator of Mexico, General Santa Anna, as well as detailing the Battle of San Jacinto (April 21, 1836) where General Sam Houston's rag-tag army of Texans took on and defeated Santa Anna's army which led to the indepedence of Texas. Written by
Excellent film that stands up to stupefying rancor
Having kept an eye on this film since before it began production, I have been amazed at the viciousness of the invective that has been hurled its way. Reviews, both professional and amateur, have tended to offer viewpoints whose stunning ignorance have been nearly matched by their astonishing arrogance. This film has suffered much at the hands of pencilneck journalists who just couldn't wait to write some endlessly clever variation on 'forget the Alamo.' Precious few, Roger Ebert chief among them, seem to have understood the film.
Much of the vitriol is because it is a Disney film; while much is because it has to do with Texas. Both, largely because of their successes, seem to attract critics who allow decency and fairness to fall victim to their vindictiveness. I fear, however, that we live in such a cynical age, that the notion of men voluntarily giving up their lives in defense of freedom is so difficult to comprehend that it is met with derision.
Disney did not help matters with their poor handling of this film's publicity. I attend many movies, and I saw the trailer once. Where was the media blitz, as Touchstone did with Ladder 49? A predatory press gleefully playing up pre-release difficulties was met largely with silence. Disney seemed to have had no faith in the film, or at least no clue as to how to market it. Their loss. Literally. Fortunately, their campaign for the DVD was somewhat better.
As for the film itself, it is the most historically accurate version of the Alamo story though that isn't saying much. For those for whom historical accuracy is a litmus test, there is still much over which to nitpick. But, as is the responsibility of a popular culture interpretation of historical events, director Hancock fully captures the spirit of what was going on at that particular time and in that particular place. Hancock and crew did a stellar job in lovingly recreating the world of 1836 Texians American and European immigrants, as well as native Tejanos uniting in revolt against an oppressive regime in an effort to gain independence, as well as a sovereign government attempting to enforce law and order on its frontiers. The principals, the tempestuous Houston, the celebrated Crockett, the fearsome Bowie, and the young, unproven Travis are portrayed as real humans rather than as demigods. Each has his obstacles to overcome, and each shows significant growth as their fates are played out. For those who make the ultimate sacrifice, their heroism is made all the more real by this emphasis on their humanity. The actors, particularly Thornton in an Oscar-worthy role, as well as Patric, Wilson, and the marvelous Emilio Echevarría as Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, are to be commended for their interpretations of these enigmatic characters. A major bonus of the DVD is the commentary by professional historian Stephen L. Hardin and military adviser Alan C. Huffines -- particularly useful for those who cannot wrap their minds around the differences between popular culture, history, and art.
Hancock has provided us with a thoughtful, intelligent, deliberate, and often subtle film for adults, certainly an explanation for the film's lack of box-office success. Even Burwell's score suffers from these 'shortcomings.' Comparisons to John Wayne's 1960 The Alamo are as inevitable as they are pointless, but anyone expecting that film's heavy-handedness may be disappointed. It is like comparing 2004's The Passion of the Christ to 1961's King of Kings they are not remakes, but variations on a theme, each with their unique points of view, merits, and shortcomings.
The film's biggest fault is that, even if one didn't know that it was cut by about a third by negative test audience reactions, it is still apparent that it suffers from these cuts. This is a complex, epic story that demands epic treatment. I abhor criticizing a film for what it is not rather than what it is, but I join many others in sincerely hoping that a director's cut DVD will be forthcoming, so we can see Hancock's vision as it was intended. Where do I cast my vote?
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