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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16%
Worth A Look: 16%
Average: 4%
Pretty Bad46%
Total Crap: 18%

3 reviews, 32 user ratings

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Alamo, The (2004)
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by Erik Childress

"...In The Basement"
2 stars

We were always told in school that the reason we study history is because it repeats itself. Learn from our mistakes, what goes around comes around, etc…etc… History traditionally is written by the winners and later taught and skipped in whatever order each school seems fit. Naturally then the youth usually save their attention for the movies and what they have to say about historical events. Students may want to open their books, even if it is for just a few paragraphs, to learn about The Alamo because the latest film won’t do much for them or their parents.

The only reason anyone has other than money to update one of the most infamous of U.S. events is to recreate it with both the technology and the knowledge that didn’t exist with previous incarnations. Detractors of the 1960 John Wayne version could hedge their bets that a more even-handed treatment of both sides of the skirmish would be on the horizon. Action enthusiasts hope to see the battle in all its bloody glory. Historical purists can look to giddy themselves with the little details never touched upon before. True enough, I can’t imagine any group not being disappointed with the final result.

The holy trinity of the Alamo story still have their focus. James Bowie (Jason Patric) is constantly defined by his drinking and displays of the giant knife that would make Crocodile Dundee run. Col. William Travis (Patrick Wilson), excuse me – Lt. Col. – has been put in charge of the old missionary by his superior and is resented by Bowie. Of course, everyone’s favorite King of the Wild Frontier, Davy Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton) is on hand to lend his spirit and support now that his time in Congress is over and the legend has grown. Almost bookending the story is Gen. Sam Houston (Dennis Quaid), who is basically on hand to provide the U.S. a happy ending to this story.

The tale of The Alamo has been handed down for generations; mostly Texan generations since it’s more of a Lone Star State story than an American one. Despite it involving two sets of countrymen, race actually was never much of a factor until the 20th century. In a time when the Japanese (Pearl Harbor) and Jews (The Passion of the Christ) are concerned about backlash, we haven’t really heard a peep south of the border. Maybe they actually have more faith in their countrymen not to have their behavior influenced by a movie.

Nevertheless, such a focal point of race is made in the 2004 version, while perhaps only subconsciously, that it’s hard to believe its such a progressive treatment after all. Juan Seguin (Jordi Molla) is asked why he fights with the white man and the black slaves are either counted as equally Uncle Tom-ish or outright cowards. Travis’ slave at The Alamo was reportedly one of the only survivors, but we never see him again after cowering in the corner holding his master’s belongings.

The cast, while impressive, also has its up-and-downs. Patric starts out strong as Bowie only to be crippled with bedridden fever for the second half. Wilson makes a fine Travis only to be given an inauspicious send-off. That’s more than you can say for Marc Blucas, whose background performance is revealed in the credits as none other than Capt. James Bonham (played by Wayne’s son, Patrick, in 1960.) Thornton delivers the film’s best performance as Crockett, accepting his legend status but never depending on it. He’s a man with demons, but knows only to reveal them if it will help the men who look up to him. Quaid, doing a 19th century version of his soussful Doc Holiday persona, is gone for long stretches but comes back in a big way to deliver the immortal “Remember the Alamo.” It may have been Houston’s finest hour, but The Alamo certainly isn’t Quaid’s.

“War” movies like The Alamo probably shouldn’t be reduced to terms of “action”. These were real men who lost real lives. But so were the characters of Glory and Black Hawk Down and those films managed to be rousing without losing respect for its subjects. The Alamo kinda pauses every once in a while for cannon fire, but nothing becomes sustained until the 100-minute mark. Funny how a title card tells us it took only 18 minutes for U.S. forces to successfully Ambush Santa Anna’s forces. That would be impressive if the screen time for the final Alamo siege didn’t give the General the edge in speedy victories.

Did we learn nothing from John Sayles when he closed Lone Star with the line, “Forget the Alamo?” That was a film which dealt with modern racial strife in Texas under the cloud of this ancient battle which continued to draw a line in the sand between Americans and Mexicans. Ironically, it’s been said that Sayles had a big hand in this script credited to Stephen Gaghan, Leslie Bohem and director John Lee Hancock. Some of the anachronistic dialogue rivals Pearl Harbor’s trivialities especially one bit about an American victory causing the Mexican ancestors to fall victim to the white man’s thumb. There’s a South Park episode waiting to happen with busboys and leafblowers rebelling against Denny’s.

We don’t learn much about the politics of the battle, nor of the battle’s strategy itself. A sense of loss never prevails and we’re not happy for anyone who wins on either side. The revelry paid at times, especially after Crockett’s duet with the Mexican Marching Band, lulls us in to expecting a slow clap to erupt at any moment. One way or another, John Sayles was right, whether its about forgetting and moving on or about keeping his name associated with this script.

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originally posted: 04/09/04 14:40:19
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User Comments

7/15/09 Jimbo Chris Parry is a pussy 5 stars
10/01/08 R.W. Welch Perfunctory pacing; otherwise, okay. 3 stars
3/15/07 mb Good Movie 4 stars
6/17/06 WILLIAM MELUCCI great 5 stars
11/15/05 jessica BLAH!!!! i fell asleep watchin this movie in class...Billy Bob was the best part! 2 stars
8/18/05 ES Liked the original better 3 stars
4/13/05 Quigley this film is worthy of anice place above the gates of Hell 1 stars
2/26/05 goatfarmer not as bad as some of the damners would have one believe 4 stars
2/05/05 Amy Bradshaw This movie was an insult! Couldn't hold a candle to the one with John Wayne. 1 stars
1/15/05 tatum "Historical accuracy" dressed up with "dramatic license"; dullest war film ever 1 stars
10/16/04 gcc Historical accuracy in a movie for a change. BBT Great as crockett, Excellent... 5 stars
9/23/04 Tyrantis They died to protect their right to own slaves... wait, isn't that bad? 1 stars
7/24/04 LeAnn Cantrell (not to fret; relling is overrated) Overall good telling of the story. I learned new things about it. 4 stars
5/29/04 Hilarium Just completely uninteresting. 2 stars
5/19/04 Tom Walsh( ancestor died at Alamo) this movie sucks, a real let down could have done better 1 stars
5/05/04 John it's about real people rather than mythical icons - never sappy and good battle sequences- 5 stars
4/27/04 Alfred Boner I thoguht that this movie wasn't as good as i would of expected it to be, big boner. 1 stars
4/26/04 mary Pretty Good 4 stars
4/19/04 mjjp very disappointed 2 stars
4/18/04 Alex This is one of the best history epics. It is an outstanding movie. 5 stars
4/17/04 ALBERT H. TAYLOR JR. I like Thornton's performance of Davy Crockett. 4 stars
4/16/04 Siamese Toga Princess i hate people who laugh at those who died 4 our sake,... LIKE ALL OF U!!! 5 stars
4/15/04 Wake-Me-Up Borezilla 1 stars
4/15/04 rojo Hollywood and history usually don't mix, this time it works. 4 stars
4/14/04 Aaron Pretty Good 4 stars
4/12/04 pooman45 awsome!Best ever!I love you billy! 5 stars
4/10/04 Prof. Oliver S. Lindenbrook loved the basement scene. 5 stars
4/10/04 Amerigo Vespukey Um...these men were SLAVEOWNERS who STOLE land from Mexico. What's so great about that?!?! 1 stars
4/10/04 Gobsmack Remember this blah blah blah...IT SUCKS!!! 2 stars
4/09/04 Brian having flashbacks of pearl harbor... 2 stars
4/05/04 Ray Remember this movie!!! 4 stars
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  09-Apr-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 28-Sep-2004



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