MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Dennis Quaid as SAM HOUSTON
Billy Bob Thornton as DAVY CROCKETT
Jason Patric as JAMES BOWIE
Patrick Wilson as WILLIAM TRAVIS
Emilio Echeverria as ANTONIO LOPEZ DE SANTA ANNA
Jordi Molla as JUAN SEQUIN
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
BY KEVIN CARR
DVDs are great things. Not only can they have cool bells and whistles or give you a chance to see something you would never see in the theaters or on a VHS tape, but because sometimes they can make a film great. They can enhance a film by offering insight beyond the story itself. And sometimes, as with the case of “The Alamo,” they can help you grow to respect and appreciate a film.
When I first saw “The Alamo” in the theaters, I had a lukewarm reaction to it. I definitely appreciated its historical accuracy (although I did criticize it for possibly being too accurate that it lost some dramatic impact).
Although I’ve lived in Ohio all my life and haven’t been any farther south in Texas than Amarillo (save a fleeting layover in the Dallas airport), I fell a connection to the Alamo. Several years ago, I worked for a textbook company and helped write a Texas state history book. Of course, the Alamo was required reading, and it formed a significant section to the book. So while I’m not a Texan, I feel I have some connection to Texas history because it consumed about six months of my life.
“The Alamo” DVD is something worth being in the collection of any history buff. Even if you take issue with elements of the film, there’s some great extra features that should make the History Channel jealous. The DVD contains several featurettes about the production, including how they achieved authentic costumes, props and sets. There are also several interview segments with director John Lee Hancock, who was determined to make this a historically accurate Alamo film.
Some of the information that can help you really appreciate this film includes the fact that all the extras assumed the identity of real people in the Alamo. Many were Texans themselves, so they took pride in finding the history of the Alamo fighters. There’s also an excellent undercurrent that focuses on the difference between the Mexicans, the Anglos and the Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent), and how each one had a different effect on history. For example, while the character of Tejano Juan Seguin is fleeting in the film, behind-the-scenes extras show he had a strong impact on Texas history.
But the real gem of the film is the audio commentary. Instead of having the director babble on for more than two hours (although this can be nice on a DVD), the commentary features Alan Huffines and Stephen Hardin, the historical advisors for the film. What’s brilliant about this commentary is that it explains many decisions (whether they agreed with them or not) as to why things were a certain way in the film. Hearing these two talk reinforces the dream of John Lee Hancock. And while the film isn’t the most entertaining or memorable one of the year, I can now appreciate what Hancock was trying to do.
There are several deleted scenes, most of which focus on Santa Anna faking a wedding with a local girl in order to get her in bed. The scenes come with commentary by Hancock, explaining why he removed them and their historical significance.
My opinion of the film from a story and character standpoint remains the same. The film portrays them as real people, flaws and all. While this makes for good history, we are seeing the imperfections of everyone. It’s different than the classic films of the past that portrayed the Alamo fighters as 19th century superheroes.
Again, the best part of the film is Billy Bob Thornton’s portrayal of David Crockett. The film makes the point that Crockett, who was a superhuman legend in his own time, always struggled with his own self. The point is clear that great men rise to the occasion to become great. Crockett makes the point in the film that if it were just old David from Tennessee, he would probably run. But that Davy Crockett fellow… now he’s someone to live up to.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (2.35:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 televisions. French language track. French and Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.