Worth remembering

Culture | Movie Review

Issue: "Abortion: All the rage," May 8, 2004

The Alamo has generally received bad reviews and the reason is obvious: The two-hour, 17-minute film feels longer than it is because it moves sluggishly until the last half hour and fails to find a compelling narrative focus. Nonetheless, it's a movie worth seeing because it portrays a group of flawed men who come to Texas for a second chance, and find in the battle for Texas independence a cause bigger than themselves and their own vices. In that sense The Alamo offers more of a biblical understanding of how flawed men can change than earlier versions that offered up William Travis, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett as plaster saints.

Allegiance to historical accuracy is both a strength and weakness of the film. Director John Lee Hancock seems to feel duty-bound to give ample screen time to each major figure, but it would have been far better to center on Davy Crockett, played with sweet irony by Billy Bob Thornton. The film (probably accurately) portrays him as a victim of his own publicity, going to Texas for land and another chance at glory and instead finding himself in the Alamo, doomed to die and having to live up to his image. If the film has an anti-war perspective, Crockett voices it-but at the end he too is heroically willing to die for the cause.

Crockett helps commanding officer Travis, who divorces his wife at the beginning of the movie and admits to gambling and chasing women, to gain stature as well. By the end he's become a leader who knows that death is coming. The Alamo might have slipped into political correctness when it addresses concerns such as slavery and the role of Mexicans fighting against the dictator Santa Anna, but the historical revisionism is minimal. Note: Parents should be aware that the film is rated PG-13 for its battlefield violence and some crude, occasionally profane language.

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Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.


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