Cover Art and Menu: 6/10
An epic American battle starring two Hollywood tough guys would call for no less than a patriotic, grandiose image. I don’t mind the front cover, it’s just kind of boring. You might have read this kind of comment from me in other reviews. In my opinion the menu is soooooo much more interesting with the silhouette of the Alamo against a rustic war torn sky. Now that would have made a cool cover. I’ll call them up right now and have it changed. 🙂
One extra that is not listed on the DVD is an audio commentary by two historians, Alan Huffines and Stephen Hardin, who are experts on the subject of The Alamo. They talk about the things that are historically correct, the inaccuracies, and movie magic that is added to compress the story for time and dramatic purposes. They talk about the imperfections of the real men behind the folk lore with all their shortcomings and flaws. They acknowledge the Hollywood fictions that are added. It’s an excellent extra that is a must listen if you are at all interested in the real story behind the cinematic version.
- Walking in the footprints of heroes featurette – A brief background on the the real men depicted in the movie. The stars talk about their characters and the challenges they faced bringing them back to life.
- Deleted scenes – A couple of scenes were cut that would have told a deeper back story about dictator Santa Anna, but were cut for time reasons and to unclutter the story.
- Return of a legend The making of the Alamo – An excellent documentary style short that shows just how dear this story was to the cast and crew, many of whom are from Texas. Director John Hancock talks a lot about the pressure of getting the story right and not disappointing fellow Texans. You get a behind the scenes look at how the town was built and the painstaking details were achieved.
- Deep in the heart of Texans featurette – How does The Alamo fit into the psyche of Texans? How does it fit into American history? This featurette gives a short but interesting look at a battle that probably is way more important to our history than any of us non-Texans think it is. All of the extras are well produced and for the price of the DVD add to the value of the whole package.
The Movie: 7/10:
I have looked forward to seeing this movie now for who knows how long. It seems like we started seeing trailers back in 2002 or so. Then it just disappeared. One day it reappeared on DVD..hmm I am glad to finally get my grubby little hands on it if for no other reason than to get a Hollywood history lesson about this place called The Alamo. I had no idea what it was all about, not being from Texas and all, so it was good to at least get the film version down my gullet to feel a tad more like an educated American.
From the opening of the film you get the vibe that this is not a slick blockbuster feature like Titanic or Pearl Harbor. The tone and ambiance of each scene seems more intimate, more like a play in a strange way, which is a good thing in my opinion. The glossy versions of big events can be entertaining and exciting, but this version of events is a bit less shiny and measurably more gritty. Have you ever taken a tour through one of those old historic towns with original churches, school houses, and general stores? The all wood environment is very distinctive. Footsteps are heavy and loud, voices echo slightly and it all feels hollow inside. They built the entire set of The Alamo, inside and out. The buildings are for all intensive purposes, real buildings. When you see a scene where people are outside a window going about their daily business, that’s all part of the plan. There are no “staged” scenes, which means they are not shot in some warehouse in LA made to look like the part. It’s a living breathing town from the past where they happen to be making a movie. If you give high scores for authenticity factor, The Alamo will rank near the top of your list. Many of the inside scenes are made that much more interesting because of those heavy footsteps and the hollow echo of voices against the real wood walls/floors.
All that being said, the tone is set for the rest of the film, a semi-accurate portrayal of real events in Texan history played against a more or less realistic backdrop. I know movies don’t ever depict the REAL thing with perfect accuracy, so I won’t say it’s worthy of showing in schools as the end-all beat-all record of The Alamo. In fact, most of what we can find out about the people involved is myth, legend, hearsay, and the fodder that makes up those thrilling tales of the wild west. The characters are studies of what they can patch together of the real men behind those legends. Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton, and Jason Patrick play three key figures in the early days of the big event. Aside from the realistic sets and authentic costumes, their portrayals seem somewhat heavy handed at times. The overly dramatic moments don’t distract from the movie so much as emphasize that staged play feeling. It’s not a bad thing, and I understand that director John Hancock is paying homage to the long told stories about The Alamo and the people involved. It’s just that once in a while you might think, “hmmm they could have done more more take and cut the bravado in half”. There could be the danger of comic book legend status of some of these characters, but they don’t let it go quite that far, thankfully. Other than that slight imperfection the performances are exciting and keep the momentum going from scene to scene. I imagine that these actors got a real kick out of portraying such big personalities, a lot like when they were kids and reenacted the whole thing over and over in their back yards. It would be hard not to overdo the drama a bit, so all is forgiven.
John Hancock, the director, is from Texas and took his job very seriously. He does justice to the men who fought and died during those days at The Alamo while still making room for some fancy Hollywood footwork to keep those of you who are not interested in historic accuracy happy. Overall I enjoyed the film and it was worth the wait. I can honestly say that I liked it more as a movie than Pearl Harbor, but it was still missing something I can’t put my finger on exactly. What it does have going for it is that it’s down and dirty with a lot of heart. Maybe that’s part of what lowers the score for me, some shots of men reacting, dying, etc. are just a shade too sentimental for me. It’s not sappy and don’t expect non stop action because this movie is paced according to the events of the days leading up the battle, not just the battle itself. The battle which gives Texas its rightful place in American folk lore. The movie is methodical and relatively slow with bursts of action that move the story forward. It’s not an all out blood bath from start to finish, but rather a close look at the men who stood their ground and set up that one small little church for its place in history.
For as low as $17.00 online this is one of those DVD’s you might just want to add to your collection. I think it’s got re-watchable value for sure. A once a year event to revisit the drama that eventually lead to us procuring the largest state in the union. The extras make the disc well worth the price so I recommend putting this rough and rugged tale on your Christmas list.
Overall Score 7/10