Texas is in the middle of its revolution, beginning the break with Mexico. Santa Anna hasjust declared himself emperor, and is set on crushing the resulting rebellion. The crucialbattlefield is the Alamo, a former monastery, a hardly suitable for defense. Nevertheless, thatis where our band of heroes gather, including Davey Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton), JamesBowie (Jason Patric) and Lt. Col. William Travis (Patrick Wilson). Personal animosities are setaside in the ensuing …errible battle.
An episode of the CBC radio program Ideas once dealt with the idea of the “pyrrhicdefeat” — defeats in a nation’s history that somehow become more celebrated than victories, andthe Alamo is the American answer to, say, Kosovo. The film approaches its subject withenormous reverence, but this saps its energy as a movie, and renders the text rather opaque foraudiences who don’t already know the story by heart. The battle scenes are handsome, and theperformances are decent, but the morale-boosting palaver is a bit much. Additionally, a fictionalscene in which Crockett demonstrates his sharp-shooting skills by shooting off Santa Anna’sepaulette raises an unfortunate question: why didn’t the idiot shoot the emperor through the headinstead, and save everybody a lot of trouble?
The 5.1 track is pretty damn spectacular. Dialogue is perfectly clear, and never succumbsto distortion or to being drowned out by the sound effects. These last are nothing short ofstunning, with a total environmental effect, and superb placement of the effects. A snapping twigduring a night scene, for instance, is extremely startling. As for the battle scenes, one word:duck.
The colours are gloriously rich, giving the film an eye-pleasing, painterly look. There is novisible edge enhancement or grain, and the blacks are marvellous, accompanied by stark,striking contrasts. The image is wonderfully sharp. Whatever one might think about the film, thevisuals are very rich indeed.
Interesting that the commentary is not by any of the primary creators of the film. Instead,historical advisor Stephen L. Hardin and military advisor Alan Huffines do the honours,grounding the film in its context and pointing out whatever errors are still present. There arethree featurettes, all with a promotional slant, but some better than others. “Return of theLegend” is, at 18 minutes, the longest, and is a not-bad making-of featurette, as these things go.“Walking in the Footsteps of Heroes” also isn’t bad, filling us in (briefly) on the real-lifecharacters. As for “Deep in the Heart of Texans,” the less said the better. There are also fivedeleted scenes with optional commentary by director John Lee Hancock. The menu is fullyanimated and scored.
As historical recreations go, this isn’t a bad effort, but it doesn’t quite manage to reach outbeyond its own in-crowd.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
- 3 Making-of Featurettes