The Alamo Reviews
Should have been simple enough: tell the story of the Battle of the Alamo with some good, epic action scenes and some character development. The action scenes are there, and are good. However, the character development is quite superficial: there are no shades of grey. Travis is a martinet, Crockett and Bowie are one-dimensional, anarchic, uber-hero adventurers.
Moreover, director John Wayne and writer James Edward Grant add in several sub-plots which have no bearing on the story. Yes, some are there to add some colour to the characters, but they just seem gratuitous and wholly unnecessary.
Acting is almost all of the over-the-top macho variety. John Wayne was always going to be the swaggering hero (that's all he knows), and, as he is director, now he has licence to crank up the swagger. Richard Widmark comes close to matching him in this regard. Only Laurence Harvey, as Travis, plays it straight. Too straight: he comes off as cranky.
Surprisingly, despite all the hammy acting that abounds, this movie got an acting Oscar nomination. Chill Wills was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, for his performance as Beekeeper. Probably the most undeserved Oscar nomination in history. Apparently his marketing campaign in attempting to get the Oscar is worth a movie itself...
This all said, this version is still far better than the one from 2004.
The Alamo doesnâ(TM)t exactly have the feel of the large scale that it really should for a film depicting the Battle of the Alamo, and it feels exactly the same as many of the basic generic John Wayne western films. Under his direction, the story is reduced to being just another western movie that teaches little about the context of what The Alamo is all about. So for all the people to be handling The Alamo, John Wayne proves that he isnâ(TM)t the right choice for the film. I learned nothing about Col. Davy Crockett from The Alamo except that he was a cowboy, and I canâ(TM)t even be sure if that is true because it seems to be just John Wayneâ(TM)s characterisation of him.
The Alamo is hardly the epic historical story that audiences might hope it to be, it is just a basic western movie with a larger budget than many of John Wayneâ(TM)s others and therefore improved visual elements. But with 12 million dollars of 1960 money, John Wayne clearly couldnâ(TM)t afford to buy good storytelling. The Alamo has a story to be told, but John Wayne tells it as a glamourised cowboy tale which isnâ(TM)t the right way to do it. He leaves out the complicated political context of the story and keeps it all very one sided to keep up with his right-wing patriotism and prevents the story from being a truthful one.
For the entire first hour, The Alamo is extremely boring. There is no action, the story behind The Alamo isnâ(TM)t told, and it is pretty much dominated simply by a lot of characters which the film fails to clarify who they actually are when presenting them on screen, all the while John Wayne goes through another generic romantic story which is practically identical to the same romantic tale seen in all of his other western films. The romantic tale is unnecessary and weak, giving no benefit to the story and simply getting in the way of what The Alamo should honestly be saying. I guess to boil down to it, John Wayne is not the right man to helm the story of The Alamo due to his one sided right wing nature and due to the fact that he takes a very basic western approach to practically all his material which isnâ(TM)t the best case for The Alamo as it is a supposedly important historical story. I didnâ(TM)t walk away from the film with an understanding of why though.
John Wayne also miscasts himself in the role of Col. Davy Crockett. He doesnâ(TM)t look anything like the man and the fact that he wears a similar coonskin cap does not resolve that. He reduces the heroism of the character into making him a generic and forgettable cowboy character and it fails to truly reach the heights of success that the real Col. Davy Crockett apparently did. I donâ(TM)t know what made the man such a hero because The Alamo didnâ(TM)t depict it well, and neither did John Wayne himself who thoughtlessly put himself into the role simply to play him as yet another cowboy. The Alamo could have been a chance for John Wayne to branch out, but he refused to tell The Alamo like it was and made it all about him as a person instead of him as Col. Davy Crockett. It is the second most miscast role of his whole career, second only to his role as Gengis Khan in the film The Conqueror, considered the worst miscast in all of film history.
Frankly, The Alamo is more of a self-indulgent vanity project on behalf of John Wayne than an actual effective film telling the story about The Alamo, and the fact that he reduces it to be a generic western is paid no favours by the glacial pace, the overwhelmingly dull first hour and the fact that it is stretched to a period of 154 minutes and more in some other releases of the film is just a ridiculous overkill of running time which isnâ(TM)t supplied by enough entertainment value to transcend its bloated length and glacial pace.
But admittedly, John Wayne does manage to ensure that The Alamo is pleasing from a visual perspective.
Following his knowledge for western filmmaking, John Wayne ensures that The Alamo is captured by a lot of fine quality cinematography which captures the stylish scenery and artistic production design. The Alamo is convincing because it is visually terrific, and it is both colourful and monochromatic at the same time as a way of maintaining its western feel as well as keeping itself on the grand scale of the story. It doesnâ(TM)t feel epic, but it mostly looks epic thanks to the widescreen presentation of the cinematography and way that it keeps the camera at a distance to capture the large spectacle of the story, even if it feels limited by its Westernised approach. There is a lot of appealing set pieces and locations in The Alamo, and it is captured by strong cinematography as well as edited timely.
And the musical score is fairly great because although it also falls into the westernised style of The Alamo, it gives it the sort of adventurous theme key for a spectacle like the one it wants to be.
While John Wayne cannot tell the story of The Alamo well, he does manage to stage some impressive large scale action scenes which are the source of much entertainment for the scenes they occur in. While the film is dull, the action scenes are very entertaining because they are exec tied finely and shot with great scale cinematography. At least the action scenes in the movie, particularly the climactic battle scene were fairly exhilarating.
And while the cast create a generic western demeanour for the characters, Chill Wills gives a mostly effective supporting effort.
But aside from its visual appeal, The Alamo is essentially nothing but a generic John Wayne western film with a big scale and big budget that fails to glorify the heroism of Col. Davy Crockett or explain much of the historical context of the Alamo, leaving audiences likely to ask more questions walking out of the film than they did before walking in to viewing it.
I wasn't exactly going into this 1960 John Wayne film expecting all that much subtlety, yet there are still plenty of points in this film that are perhaps fluffier than they probably should, because even though the film isn't consistently corny, it still turns in plenty of improvable, if not simply cheesily heavy-handed dialogue points, as well as a narrative that goes plagued by much of that distinct 1960s melodrama that slows down the momentum of storytelling, much like, of all things, plot structuring that is anything but slow. At nearly 170 minutes, or, in the case of the director's cut that few people want to see, at the very least, because it's only available on VHS, this film has plenty of room to tighten things up, and it often does, and yet, there are still points that feel a bit too hurried, maybe not to where storytelling adopts a kind of slam-bang feel, but decidedly to where exposition takes some hits. There's enough meat to this meal for things to feel adequately well-cooked (Great, now I'm hungry), yet subtlety issues and the occasional hurried spot thin out the final product's flesh a touch, while slow spots - of which there are more than I had anticipated - further blands things up too much for your investment to stand all that firm. I went into this film expecting, at the very least, plenty of entertainment value, and sure enough, I did find the fun factor within this effort to be reasonably juicy, though hardly as rich as I was hoping it would be, because as entertaining as this film is, it's not without its bland spots, and quite a few of them, never to where dullness sinks its teeth all that deeply into things, but much too often to where storytelling is left dragging its feet as hardly all that engaging. I'm not asking that this film be consistently thrilling, or even consistently fun, but this film faces too many relatively bland spells, and has plenty of time to, because even though something of a hefty length is recommended when it comes to a story concept like this, padding is rather surprisingly much too plentiful within this product, whose excessive filler in plotting shakes consistency in focus, while simple fat around the edges that has little in the way of necessary storytelling value leaves things to feel a bit too repetitious. The pacing issues within this film stand to be more severe, but the fact of the matter is that they do, in fact, stand, and just firm enough to give you the opportunity to meditate upon what might be the final product's biggest issue: overambition, something that is understandable, given the potential within this project, but ultimately too palpable for this execution of promising concepts to feel all that assured or stable enough to obscure a wealth of other issues, thus making for a surprisingly and unfortunately underwhelming epic. Still, no matter how messy this overambitious opus may be, at the end of the day it feels like it takes to watch this film, you'd be hard pressed to not be reasonably entertained by what is done right in John Wayne's telling of a worthy tale, or at least impressed by some fairly strong musical aspects.
A classic score composer for plenty of Hollywood westerns and epics, Dimitri Tiomkin held a resume that was full of titles that were known for their strong, if a bit conventional scores, with this film boasting yet another Tiokin score that is not exactly too refreshing, even for its time, but nevertheless generally quite strong, with a distinctly old Hollywood sweep and soul that breathes much liveliness into things, and is sometimes broken up by artistic touches by Tiomkin that are, in fact, relatively unique. Tiokin's consistently commendable musical tastes play a reasonably notable role in the defining of this film's liveliness and tone, though certainly not as much as William H. Clothier's photographic tastes play a role in defining the sweep of this epic, being not too terribly outstanding, largely due to the limitations of the time, but still with enough broadness to scope play to capture the immensity of this film's distinguished and dynamic environment, as well as enough crispness in coloring and lighting to catch your eyes about as much as a film of this type and time could. Visually, this film may very well have been a technical marvel for its time, and even to this day, Clothier's cinematographic tastes are strikingly worthwhile, particularly when put to fine use in the heat of combat, where the grandness of Clothier's scope gives you a very well-rounded view into the broad-scale warfare that this film has enough strong technical and production value to dramatize thrillingly. Certainly, this film's action sequences aren't exactly superb by today's standards, but the sweep and technical competence behind the battle scenes within this war epic are rich enough to keep you quite entertained, if no just plain gripped when the heat of warfare comes to a head and livens up the kick to this film's substance, which recieves further juice from plenty of charm within this cast of classic charismas. Don't get me wrong, this film's era didn't exactly hold too high of a standard for acting, and sure enough, traditional acting is simply decent at its very best in this film, and is generally kind of mediocre, if not fairly weak, when it comes to charisma, you'll find much difficulty in ignoring the star power that most everyone radiates enough of to sustain your attention and, to a certain degree, investment within characterization, however thin it may be. I wish I could say that this film was sharper in its bringing this worthy story concept to life through plenty of commendable storytelling strengths, but there is just enough inspiration in the compliments to substance for you to get a reasonable grip on the value within this subject matter, not to where the film comes close to truly rewarding as much as it probably should, but decidedly to where you'll find yourself reasonably willing to stick with this faulty epic, wondering just what it is to happen next. At the very least, John Wayne's direction graces this film with entertainment value, something that is still too thin for the final product's own good, but generally rich enough for the final product to sustain your attention more often than not and leave you having a reasonably fun time, no matter how much it leaves quite a bit to be desired.
When the battle dies down, you're likely to be left feeling rather underwhelmed, thanks to the cheesily unsubtle spots, hurried, or at least underdeveloped spots, slow spots and, of course, repetitious bloating that slowly, but surely, eat away at the full impact of this should-be rewarding effort, until the final product is left standing as quite improvable, though not so much so that you can't appreciate the strong score work, fine cinematography, grand action, charming cast and reasonable entertainment value that color up a worthy story that is done just enough justice for John Wayne's "The Alamo" to ultimately carry on as a decent epic that does a fair job of keeping you going, even though it stands to compel more.
2.5/5 - Fair
El álamo es muy gigante, pero se duerme en su pomposidad y no cuida la actuación haciendo que dure eones gracias también a su duración; pero las escenas de la batalla son muy buenas y entretenidas, además de la música de Dimitri, aunque al final de cuentas la obra maestra de Wayne, por la que luchó casi diez años no es emblemática ni el parteaguas que esperaba que fuese.