The Alamo John Wayne

The Alamo John Wayne
John Wayne's tribute to the American spirit of resistance gets by mostly on the considerable merits of its cast and the historical content of its story. Clocking in at an epic two hours and 42 minutes, The Alamo reviews a turning point in North American history, during which the state of Texas was under Mexican rule. Davey Crocket (Wayne) and a ragtag assemblage of Caucasian rebel soldiers stage a doomed stand against advancing Mexican armies in order to allow larger rebel forces to gather strength in the north. Despite the grandeur of the production — 7,000 extras and 1,500 horses — the film works best when Wayne brings the camera in close for more intimate moments with his characters. There is no shortage of highfalutin speeches extolling the virtues of courage, honesty and valour, but they are mostly well written and tend to show surprising sympathy for the Mexican side of the story. Laurence Harvey, an accomplished Shakespearean actor, is especially entertaining as Col. William Travis, initially an obnoxious character who is revealed to possess bravery in abundance. The film is most disappointing, however, when it comes to the staging of the epic battle sequence that ends the story. The film's over-choreographed and theatrical violence could be overlooked if Wayne and cinematographer William H. Clothier had managed to articulate a clearer sense of the final battle's geography. A single aerial shot establishing the grounds of the Alamo during the attack would have sufficed. As it stands, the film's finale plays more like a collection of B-roll footage than as a cohesive explanation of the historic battle. Also troublesome is the film's score, which never seems to lose its triumphant tone. Composer Dimitri Tiomkin's apparent disregard for what is happening on screen is distracting at best. The DVD comes with only one decent extra: an excellent 40-minute documentary called "John Wayne's The Alamo." The documentary contains insightful commentary from the cast and crew of the production, and some amusing direct-to-camera addresses from Wayne and his co-stars. (MGM)