and John Lee Hancock
Directed by John Lee Hancock
Running Time: 2:17
as Gen. Sam Houston
Billy Bob Thornton
The Alamo was marketed as an action film, but was really a long, dramatic piece that almost made me fall asleep.
Mexican General Santa Ana wants to reclaim Texas for Mexico. Texans mind you, want to keep Texas for themselves, and in fact, make it its own country. The Alamo is a small Spanish Mission near the border of the two countries in San Antonio that for some reason is very vital to each side. Protecting the Alamo is a combination of military and volunteer, both generally bored out of their skulls. James Bowie, usually drunk and also dying of consumption, is the leader the people recognize, while Lt. Col. Travis is the new 'official' leader of the troops. No one thinks the vaunted Mexican Army will attack, but one night they appear just outside the gates of the Alamo. General Santa Ana, instead of immediately going for the kill, wants to wait for General Sam Houston to make an appearance, so he can kill him. Santa Ana doesn't seem to care that an even more well-known celebrity is inside the Alamo, none other than Davy Crockett. So Santa Ana bides his time, before going in and destroying everything in his path. But then he gets cocky, and splits his Army in three, at which point Houston rides in and crushes Santa Ana faster than UConn crushed Georgia Tech in the national championship game.
So all the trailers for The Alamo made me think this would be one of those Western-type action films where we're in battle throughout, there might be some kind of love story, and there would be a lot of explosions and whatnot. Instead, for a movie that lasted 2 hours and 17 minutes, we got probably about 17 minutes worth of action. 45 minutes in there was a small battle, then the last 10 minutes there was fighting. Otherwise, it was a really long and boring standoff full of clichéd lines and an attempt at character development that fell far short of being interesting.
Why was Dennis Quaid given top billing in a film he only appears in for maybe 20 minutes? He starts the film and ends the film, and doesn't really show up in the middle. Billy Bob Thornton's almost bored portrayal of Davy Crockett was the star of the film, and he didn't even see to want to be there. Granted, I have no idea what these people were like in real life, but I'd have to imagine the real Davy Crockett wasn't always seemingly on the verge of falling asleep. He did command a lot of respect however, and for that I give him props. Jason Patric as the aforementioned alcoholic James Bowie was wonderful in his ability to cough. It seemed to me most of the actors were just running lines and not really caring what they were. There were some talented folk in the film, I mean, Thornton gave one of the finer acting performances I've seen in Sling Blade, but the dialogue they were given was hackneyed at best. It's never a good sign when you have three separate people listed as screenwriters. And I suppose knowing that Ron Howard backed out of directing should have set off some bells and whistles.
There were other little things that seemed senseless to me. There was a small subplot about the way blacks were treated and how while they weren't technically slaves, they were 'under contract' to their white owners. But the subplot never went anywhere. It was almost like the writers/director felt they had to say something, so they threw a couple of black characters. This way, they could bring up the idea of race relations back then and make people happy. All it did for me is make me go, huh? What was the point? There was none. And then there was Bowie's failed marriage? What was that about? Never understood the point of that either.
On the positive side, I enjoyed the scenery, and the sets were nice as well. I enjoyed Davy Crockett's fiddle playing, especially when he accompanied the Mexican orchestra in the middle of the night. As he said, there's nothing like a good harmony to bring people together. Even people bent on killing each other. And I think the music was good.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, The Alamo was a waste of time. I think I'd rather go out and rent a documentary on the subject, rather than watch this hogwash again. Remember The Alamo? I think not.
The Alamo (1960)
The History Channel
Presents The Alamo
The Alamo Reader:
A Study in History
Alamo (2004) Score
© 2004 Wolfpack Productions