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The Alamo
DVD disk
Oct 19, 2004 By: Indiana Sev
The Alamo order
Director:
John Lee Hancock

Actors:
Billy Bob Thornton
Jason Patric
Dennis Quaid

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A retelling of the historical 13-day standoff held at the Alamo, in 1836, where fewer than two hundred men went up against thousands of Mexicans, under the command of their dictator, Santa Anna. Four men, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Jim Bowie and William Travis, led the charge, all in the purpose of relieving Texas (which was a republic at the time, and not a state) from Mexican rule and gaining independence.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
I find American history fascinating. Maybe it’s because in comparison to Canadian history (which used to put me into deep comas in high school), its beginnings seem to be much richer and full of more legendary and recognizable names and battles. The Civil War is a great example and the battle of the Alamo is right up there on the list as well. This is one of those movies that make me feel about 2 inches tall for what I do in my day-to-day life. It’s a movie about real men (and women) that stood tall and faced whatever impending danger came their way, all in the name of what they believed was just and worth dying for. The film will also flesh out names like Crockett, Houston, Bowie and Travis, and expose what kind of men they really were, not the caricatures they’ve come to be (this is especially true with Davy Crockett) but as flesh and blood human beings on the battleground. It will illustrate how their true colors shone when they were faced with the ultimate test and facing their own mortality. Jeez, and I get all wound up when there’s a long line at the grocery store. I should be ashamed of myself!

Billy Bob’s acting abilities are beginning to scare me. He hasn’t once disappointed me and with this role, he gives Davy Crockett all the charm, humor, honor and strength he was known for – there really is no other actor that could have portrayed Crockett with such humility, love and understanding. Jason Patric, and relative newcomer Patrick Wilson, also do great justice to their respective characters. Wilson’s speech to his men, who all know they are facing certain death, is wonderfully delivered and incredibly inspiring. In fact, the exceptional acting by the entire cast is reason enough to rent this movie. Sure, Santa Anna’s madman dictator routine made me wonder if he was truly as one-dimensionally evil as that, but watching this as a movie buff and not as a historian, I enjoyed it as it made me loathe him all the more.

If the acting punch in the film isn’t motivation enough for you, add to that a rousing and memorable score, gorgeous vistas as well as some exciting, realistic battles. I’ll level with you; the film takes its time, especially the actual standoff, so take heed if you’re of an impatient nature, but the payoff is well worth it and pays great tribute to the brave souls that made the Alamo worth remembering. Now, I’m off to contemplate handing in my resignation to the boss man, this “critiquing” might be paying the bills, but it’s a far cry from laying your life on the line for what you believe in. Maybe I can lend a hand in saving those whales or something.
THE EXTRAS
Return of the Legend: The Making of The Alamo: This is a comprehensive 18-minute behind-the-scenes feature in which you’ll hear from a lot of the key people on set: director, producer, costumers, historical experts, actors, etc. They also take you up and around the “biggest set ever built in North America”, all in the purpose of expressing the great lengths they all went to, to make this movie as “real” as they possibly could…

Deep in the Heart of Texans (6 minutes) : A relatively short, but gratifying, extra which shows the pride every single person on set had for being part of this important retelling of Texas history. Native Texans, John Lee Hancock and Dennis Quaid, emphasize how all Texans grew up learning about The Alamo and discuss how crucial it was for them to get it right. Even the extras, some who had relatives who fought at the time, talk about the seriousness in which they’re taking their part in this film. The love native Texans have for this story and this movie shines right through on this extra.

Walking in the Footsteps of Heroes: This is just what I was hoping this DVD would have. You’re presented with real life summaries of the four main heroes portrayed in the film, along with actual pictures and portrayals of them by other actors in previous Hollywood films. Historians also chime in with all kinds of interesting facts about their lives and how they all ended up together at The Alamo (three of them anyway). The most interesting of the four are, of course, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, but I was honestly fascinated by all four after having just seen the film. I think some might even appreciate THE ALAMO even more if they view this feature right before they watch the movie.

5 Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary) : Fortunately nothing was cut that would have truly done a disservice to the film. In fact, most of these scenes are about a sub-plot that would have dug deeper into Santa Anna’s courtship and marriage to a local girl.

Audio Commentary with Historians Alan Huffines and Stephen Hardin : These guys will BOMBARD you with historical facts and trivia. I loved every second of it. They were the perfect choice to have on the commentary track for a historical film like this. They’re open about some of the liberties that the film took as well the precise accuracies in it. I can’t emphasize enough how satisfying this track is for those thirsty for more knowledge on the film, as well as the men and events surrounding the actual stand that took place at the Alamo.

Sneak Peeks
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
This is a keeper for all you American history buffs and Billy Bob devotees. Thornton’s exciting performance and the excellent special features both make this DVD well worth buying. At the very least, THE ALAMO is a rental. It definitely inspired me to add San Antonio on my checklist of American cities I just have to go visit in my lifetime. It’s a shame this film went unnoticed and received, for the most part, lukewarm reviews when it was released. It deserves better than that. Rent it and see why…
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