The Alamo
2004 Running time: 137 Certificate: 12 Rating: 3
The Alamo

Synopsis

The umpteenth retelling of a pivotal point in America's history attempts to get inside the skin of the soldiers defending the Texan fort against thousands of Mexican troops. It's a straightforward, chronological, frills-free narrative, helped along by a few star names - Billy Bob Thornton, Dennis Quaid - and state-of-the-art setpieces.

Director

  • John Lee Hancock

Cast

  • Patrick Wilson

  • Billy Bob Thornton

  • Jason Patric

  • Dennis Quaid

Review

America's recent cinema history has been a seemingly unending litany of heroic failures somehow dealt a patriotic spin.

We've had Black Hawk Down, a rum example of a heliborne cock-up in Africa, We Were Soldiers, which pitched three GIs against two million Asian Commies and, the mother of all balls-ups, Pearl Harbor.

Now director John Lee Hancock has disinterred the legend of the Alamo, the stirring story of how a ragtag army of 200 Americans held a dusty fort for 13 days against a vast Mexican army.

To flag-waving Americans, the legend of the Alamo is one of a handful of men making the ultimate sacrifice against overwhelming odds in the name of democracy. To us, it's a car hire company.

Hancock has chosen to focus on the real characters of the patriots who fought the valiant - albeit hopeless - fight, which basically means the running time comes in at just less than three months.

It's a straightforward, chronological, frills-free narrative, helped along by a few star names - Billy Bob Thornton, Dennis Quaid - and state-of-the-art setpieces. But, God, is it long.

If you thought Davy Crockett (Thornton) was a whiskered maverick who could "ride a thunderbolt", this version has him as a sensitive, New Man sniping the epaulettes off a Mexican dictator's shoulder when he's not sawing away on a violin.

Jim Bowie (Patric) - the man who gave his name to the knife and an androgynous glamrocker - is bickering with Patrick Wilson's pompous Lieutenant Colonel when he's not dying of consumption.

On the other hand, the Mexican army - led by a blustering general who believes his troops are as expendable as chickens - look like they've matched straight out of Trumpton's Pippin Fort...and fight like it as well.

It may not suffer the sickly slick revisionism of Pearl Harbor but it still conforms to Hollywood's predeliction for grabbing cinematic victory from the jaws of historic defeat.

Has it never occurred to them that, had they surrendered, we'd have been spared the Bush administration?

Tim Evans

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