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The Alamo
2004 - PG-13 - 137 Mins.
Director: John Lee Hancock
Producer: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard
Written By: Leslie Bohem, Stephen Gaghan, John Lee Hancock
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton, Jason Patric, Patrick Wilson, Emilio Echevarria, Marc Blucas, W. Earl Brown, Stephen Bruton, Rutherford Cravens, Blue Deckert, Nick Kokich, Jordi Molla, Matt O\'Leary, Wes Studi
Review by: Joseph Kastner
   

It's getting hot in here.
“Remember the Alamo!”

Sean Hannity, in his latest book “Deliver Us From Evil”, said it best that, “Many of America’s greatest moments have come when its people have taken up arms to defend liberty”. This statement can be applied to many memorable moments in American history ranging from the fight for independence in the American Revolution, the struggle for unity in the Civil War, and the rescuing of foreigners from brutal regimes in World War II, the War in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. And, yes, even at The Alamo, which is the topic of the above mentioned movie and this review. Due to events both at the time shortly after the fall of The Alamo and in the decades there after, the story of “The Last Stand” has been greatly misconstrued, with no help from the filmmakers in Hollywood who, then as they often do now, take “creative liberties” to make history more exciting and action packed then to express the true meanings of such memorable events. There is no doubt that many will be going into this film expecting admirable heroes, consistent gun-blazing action, and everything spelled out for them so that no actual thinking is required … For those expecting that, I am proud to say you will be deeply disappointed.

The story centers on a small group of settlers who barricade themselves within a former missionary church and do battle with a vast superior Mexican army, all in the name liberty from a vicious dictator. The tale of “The Alamo” really begins around the mid-1830s in a time when the Mexicans have won independence from Spain but their government has slipped from an unstable democracy into a militaristic dictatorship led by Generalissimo Antonio Miguel Lopez de Santa Anna. In those uncertain times, the Mexicans allowed travelers from the United States to settle in their lands and even encouraged it in order to bring the American dollar into their economy. By 1836, the number of Americans greatly outnumbered the Mexicans 4-to-1. Under the rule of Santa Anna, who would become known as the “Napoleon of the West”, further restrictions were being passed on the settlers and consistent negotiations for an annexation of Texas to become a separate nation from both Mexico and the United States were continuously denied. Faced with an uncertain future for settlement and a fervent refusal to obey a totalitarian dictator, 300 men (along with their wives and children) fortify themselves within The Alamo, which was a former missionary church (one left uncompleted), faced against over a thousand Mexican soldiers led by Santa Anna who is determined to crush the colonial resistance no matter how many of his men he has to sacrifice to complete that task. The story for The Alamo is quite possibly one of the most historically accurate features in quite some time and definitely the most historical representation of the event presented on film, which isn’t saying too much with the highly inaccurate John Wayne feature being the most popular one. Those who have a general understanding of the events leading up The Alamo as well as the central figures within the film will have a fare greater appreciation for the work done here then those coming in cut and dry.

Before discussing the group of talented actors who represent the central figures who stood and fought at The Alamo, one must know that the men represented in this film, in the event known as “The Last Stand”, are not admirable men based on their pasts. Some are drunks, some are abandoners, and others are men chasing the shadows of what many expect them to be. But all that, as bad and undesirable as their situations may have been, does not matter in their courageous stand taken at The Alamo, where all fought and died for a cause they believed in and because of that nothing else can have hear-say. One of the most memorable highlights of the film, if not the greatest highlight, had to be the exuberant and well-fitted performance of Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett. Thornton gives a brilliant insight into a man who’s own legend, which was often too much for him to bare, brought him to the Alamo and how he eventually found true meaning in his life because of it, though he had no true reason to be there in the first place. General Sam Houston, who was originally planned to be portrayed by Russell Crowe, is performed by Dennis Quaid who gives an admirable performance as well as the right tone of the character despite a couple of unadmirable qualities that plagued his place in history. And praise must be given to the casting director for picking an actual Mexican in the role of Santa Anna (wonderfully acted out by Emilio Echevarria) unlike Once Upon a Time in Mexico’s choice of William Dafoe as a Mexican drug cartel which was clearly miscast.

Overall, Remember The Alamo for what it was – the courageous last stand of a group of individuals who saw Texas as a fresh new start away from the dishonorable lives they once lived and free from the oppressive rule of a totalitarian regime. As it was said once before, The Alamo is not for the average movie-goer who every-so-often finds an interest in a historical based drama. This one requires a much keener interest in the subject matter as well as a general knowledge of the events that led up to the event as well as ones that followed in its wake. Though the filmmakers try their best to keep the focus of the film in its historical context, occasionally they veer off course and slip into its mythological aspects, most notably the final scenes of Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, which, as aspirating as they may be, took away from the film’s nearly flawless portrayal. Another minor complaint would be that the filmmakers did not focus too much on the events after the fall of The Alamo and the defeat of Santa Anna but with running time standing at slightly over two hours, one can see why they may have wanted to wrap it up at the point they did. The Alamo no doubt will have its critical, as well as public, hecklers but their criticism is reserved to the less knowledgeable area of their field that focuses only on what is on the surface and doesn’t require supplemental insight into historical events.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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