What You Need To Know:
Compared to previous versions, there is a lot of good history in THE ALAMO. Bowie and Houston have more depth, while Travis comes off as a real hero. There are slight inaccuracies in the battle, and some of the dialogue is static rather than dramatic. Furthermore, there are some unnecessary obscenities in the movie, language which would not have been used at that time. In truth, the movie is greater than the sum of its parts. It tells the story and lifts up cardinal virtues such as heroism, self sacrifice, patriotism, trust, loyalty, forgiveness, and faith.
(B, C, PC, LL, VV, S, AA, D, M) Moral worldview with some positive Christian content as well as some politically correct content; 15 obscenities and four exclamatory profanities; a lot of action battlefield violence that is not overtly bloody although there are shots of people stabbed, shot, wounded, beaten, blown up, bayoneted, etc.; implied sexuality; no nudity; alcohol use and drunkenness; smoking; and, various flaws of human nature under battlefield conditions.
GENRE: Historical Epic
THE ALAMO is an entertaining movie with a good heart that tries to accurately present the history of this famous American event. That said, there is a lot to critique in the movie. It is more of a high school send-up of the battle, with some notable historical inaccuracies, as well as some worthwhile attentions to detail. There are a couple of politically correct references, but overall the movie comes out in favor of patriotism, heroism, sacrifice, and traditional virtue, including positive references to God.
The story should be familiar to most people: a group of Texans (or Texians as they were called), both of Spanish and Anglo origin, come together in a desperate effort to hold one of the two most important fortified positions in Texas (the other was Goliad, which also fell) against the ruthless army of the dictatorial General Santa Anna who had declared himself President of all Mexico. Like the American revolutionaries, these Texans were fighting for their rights – rights which had been given to them by the government of Mexico and now were being taken away by Santa Anna in his effort to become the Napoleon of the West.
Like the movies before it, THE ALAMO tries to investigate the characters of Davy Crockett, William Travis, Jim Bowie, and Sam Houston. It succeeds with all of them except Crockett. Historically, Davy Crockett was not only a big man – over 6’ feet tall – but he was a man of great Christian virtue. Billy Bob Thornton’s portrayal is smiley and reserved, and it does not give the great scope and depth necessary to the charismatic, loquacious Crockett.
There is in-fighting between the various parties; the local landowners wrestle for control of Texas with Sam Houston, and Bowie struggles with Travis for command of the Alamo. Eventually, as the audience learns at the beginning of the movie, Santa Anna prevails, but this ALAMO does not stop there. It continues to the famous battle of San Jacinto, and in doing so portrays Sam Houston as a wise military commander.
Compared to previous versions, there is a lot of good history in THE ALAMO. The Alamo was known for its cannon, which was missing from the John Wayne version; also, there is more consideration of the Spanish Mexican families. Bowie and Houston have more depth, while Travis comes off as a real hero. After his first few days of command where he is a prickly martinet, Travis apologizes and displays real valor. Only Travis understands that holding the Alamo will whittle down Santa Anna’s army, thus preparing the Mexicans for eventual defeat. Santa Anna is also well portrayed.
The music is reminiscent of the great movie GODS AND GENERALS, as is the photography, which is superb. The direction falls short to a degree, in not being able to follow the action of the battles. The best battlefield action ever portrayed was BRAVEHEART, and the focus of these battles could have been clearer if director John Lee Hancock had paid more attention to some of the historical records from people like my ancestor Creed Taylor. Also, the slaves in the movie have a distinctly contemporary perspective and don’t show the heroism that was evidenced in the John Wayne version. This heroism would have lifted them out of their bondage, but the politically correct portrayal treats them as cowering and deficient.
Some key scenes would have helped. Houston’s real strategy at Santa Jacinto was to wait until the afternoon to attack (against the advice of his subordinates) so that the sun was glaring in the Mexicans’ eyes. This was his key to defeating the Mexicans. Houston caught many of them taking siestas, especially the officers. None of this is featured in the movie. Also there are slight inaccuracies in the battle for the Alamo, and some of the dialogue is static rather than sharp and pushing the story along. Furthermore, there are some unnecessary obscenities in the movie, language which would not have been used at that time.
All this seems to be a scathing critique of the movie, but it is not. In truth, the movie is greater than the sum of its parts. It is a heroic tale told in good faith. It is a movie that audiences will want to see again. It tells the essence of the story and lifts up cardinal virtues such as those mentioned: heroism, self sacrifice, patriotism, trust, loyalty, forgiveness, and faith. It could have been a great movie. As it is, THE ALAMO is a good movie and well worth watching.