The Alamo (2004)




Director:     John Lee Hancock.

Starring:     Dennis Quaid (Sam Houston), Billy Bob Thornton (Davy Crockett), Jason Patric (James Bowie), Patrick Wilson (William Travis), Emilio Echevarría (Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana), Jordi Mollà (Juan Seguin), Leon Rippy (Sgt. William Ward), Tom Davidson (Colonel Green Jameson), Marc Blucas (James Bonham), Robert Prentiss (Albert Grimes), Kevin Page (Micajah Autry), Joe Stevens (Mial Scurlock), Stephen Bruton (Captain Almeron Dickinson), Laura Clifton (Susanna Dickinson), Ricardo Chavira (Private Gregorio Esparza).

Battle of the Alamo and Battle of San Jacinto



Spoiler Warning:

"The Alamo was established as a Spanish mission in 1718.  For more than a century armed conflict deprivede it of its sacred purpose.  The church became a makeshift fortification against marauding Indians, rebels sand a succession of conquering armies.  Location, proximity to settlements and perhaps even fate made the Alamo a crossroads for siege and battle."

1836.  The Mexicans are starting to clear away the dead from the battlefield at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. 

A rider comes riding into an army encampment shouting:  "Oh, God, they're all dead!  Massacred!  The Alamo has fallen!  They're dead, all of them!"  Sam Huston hears the news and looks disgusted. 

Flashback.  One year earlier.  Sam Huston is at a large formal party where he is trying to get men to come with him down to Texas.  He tells two gentlemen that he can hardly wait for their arrival in Texas and their first taste of mescal.  The two men don't look like they're going down to Texas. 

An actor is preparing to act in a play about Davy Crockett.  The problem is that Davy Crockett is present at the formal party.  Crockett walks over to Houston and offers a toast to Tennessee.  Houston says to hell with Tennessee, so they toast to Texas.  Crockett then asks Houston what's he selling?  Houston says he's selling Texas.  And he starts right in giving his promotional speach.  If Crockett will take the oath for militia duty, he will receive 640 acres of land of his own choosing. 

San Felipe, Texas.  [San Felipe is a town founded in 1824 along the west bank of the Brazos River in Austin County, Texas, which was the social, economic, and political center of the early Stephen F. Austin colony.]  The men are talking about the future of Texas.  They don't like the idea that General Santa Anna has set himself up as a dictator.  Sam Houston, the head of the Texas army, is going into the meeting to straighten the folks out.

Houston tells the people that to march an expedition between here and Matamoros is lunacy.  "You do not split an army into vagabond militias that march off on the slightest pretext like bloodthirsty rabble."  The majority of the people at the meeting are against Houston being the head of the Texian army.  A fight between Houston and a Scotsman named Grant is about to break out, when Jim Bowie makes an entrance into the room and calms things down. 

William Travis orders himself a very fancy military uniform.  A black man comes over to tell Travis that his wife is here.  He starts walking and he passes by Jim Bowie.  Neither man likes the other.  His wife, accompanied by her son and daughter, signs the divorce papers in the presence of her soon to be ex-husband.  The wife and daughter leave.  The son stays with Travis.

Houston tells Bowie that forts are useless to them and he can't understand why people keep relying on the Alamo for protection.  He also tells Bowie that he wants him to go to the Alamo and bring back all its cannons to him.  Bowie agrees. 

Travis leaves his boy with some foster parents and heads with his men to San Antonio.

San Antonio.  Jim Bowie and others arrive in San Antonio.  He rides over to his home.  The place is deserted.  He remembers back to better days with the Mexican woman who became his wife. 

William Travis and the men with him arrive in San Antonio.  He rides ahead to get a glimpse of the not far away Alamo, now a mission fort.  A little later he gets a tour of the Alamo by the man in charge of the fort, Colonel Neill.  The church was built in 1756.  His guide tells Travis that this fort is the only thing that stands between Santa Anna's army and our settlements. He also tells him that he is leaving for Mina on personal business and Travis will now be in charge of the fort. 

In winter weather the Mexican army is on the move.  Travis comes into a bar where Jim Bowie is telling funny stories to the men around him.  He tells Bowie that Colonel Neill left Bexar this morning on personal business.  "It's my command, now."  He then tells Bowie to restrain his men, or he will. 

And now Crockett arrives in Bexar.  The men are glad to see Crockett has come to Texas, but the man seems confused.  He mentions that it's his understanding that the fighting is over, ain't it?  The naiveté of the man shocks Bowie. 

Santa Anna gives the order for all the captured rebels to be executed by firing squad.  The order is carried out.

Jim Bowie tells Travis off for arresting two of his volunteers.  He says that Travis has no command over his volunteers.  It's a showdown.  Someone suggests they vote for who they want as their commander.  Bowie wins easily. 

A lot of the Mexicans in town are leaving for they fear Santa Ann will soon be here. 

The next day the church bells rings.  Santa Anna's army is coming down a large hill via a switch-back trail.  Travis tells Bowie that they never will be able to defend the town.  So they order a withdrawal of the town's people into the Alamo.  Bowie is coughing a lot as he moves around.  In fact, he starts coughing up blood. 

People rush into the Alamo.  Meanwhile, the Mexican army comes into the town. 

Bowie meets with two Mexican representatives.  Travis sends out couriers to Gonzales and to Col. Fannin at Goliad with news of the arrival of Santa Anna.  Travis now sees the full force of Santa Anna's army and is impressed at how huge it is.  While Bowie is still conferring, Travis orders the 18 pound cannon fired.  Some of the men don't think this is wise, but Travis gives the order again.  The cannon is fired taking some of the Mexicans by surprise.  And Bowie is furious at Travis.  He rides back to the fort and starts having it out with Travis.  Bowie was trying for a truce, but Travis is not interested in a truce. 

Crockett asks Bowie about what ails him?  Bowie says consumption, typhoid, pneumonia.  "One or all."  Crockett seeks reassurance that Sam Houston will be coming to the rescue.  Bowie tells Crockett:  "Those ain't bears out there.  Do you understand that . .  .  Davy?"

At dusk the Mexicans launch a cannonade of the fort. 

In the morning Santa Anna tells his men to move their cannon up closer to the fort.  The men seem afraid because they could get hit by a bullet form the sharpshooter Davy Crockett.  So Santa Anna walks out in front of his troops to show them where he wants them to place the cannon.  As he is walking back and forth Crockett knocks off one of the epaulets on the General's uniform with a single shot from the fort.  Santa Anna orders a cannon shot be fired into the fort as an answer to Crockett's shot.  The cannon ball lands in the middle of the courtyard of the fort, but the cannon ball does not explode.  Travis tells someone to pick that cannon ball up and take it to be fired back at the enemy.  An enlisted man says Travis will be doing that himself.  So Travis knocks off what's left of the fuse and carries the ball up to the cannon.  The ball is fired back at the Mexicans and lands right on the cannon line.  Travis says now they will fire one ball from each of their front cannon.  The men don't know whether to follow his order or not.  So Bowie tells the men to do as the Lt. Colonel commands.  A number of Mexican soldiers are killed. 

The note from Lt. Col. Travis arrives and is read before Sam Houston and the others of the Texian government.  Houston says he will raise an army and they will relieve the Alamo.  "But only after we have declared independence and created a government that can be legally recognized by all the nations of the world.  That . . . is what every besieged man in the Alamo is fighting for."

Travis sends the Mexican Sequin off with a note for Houston.  He wants Sequin to return with an answer from Houston. 

Bowie now is bed-ridden.  Houston presents his plan for the relief of the Alamo.  The Mexicans test the strength of the fort by sending a small group of men to draw fire from the fort.  A number of Mexicans are killed.  Later, Crockett and some of his men go out to burn down the small buildings in front of the fort behind which the Mexicans can hide.  When Crockett and his men return to the fort they are greeted like heroes. 

The Mexicans cannonade the fort again. 

Gonzales, Texas.  Thirty men from Gonzales have already left for the Alamo.  Seguin arrives in Gonzales from the Alamo.  But Houston only has 124 men.  He tells Col. Nell that Col. Fannin is en route from Goliad with 400 men.  Seguin is ready to go back to the Alamo, but Houston demands that Sequin is   staying with them in Gonzales.  [Gonzales is about 75 miles east of San Antonio.  Goliad is about 64 miles south of Gonzales.]

Thirty-three men arrive at the Alamo from Gonzales.  The men are happy to see the new men, but Crockett wants to know if Fannin is coming up behind him?  The leader of the group of thirty-three says he thought Fannin would have already been here.  He says Fannin told him he was headed to the Alamo. 

Santa Anna apparently left a wide corridor open for any Texians coming to the Alamo.  He figures the Alamo is just one big death trap and the more the merrier.  He also sends a note to the Alamo saying that any native Mexicans that want to leave the Alamo without harm coming to them may come out.  Bowie decides to let his slave go with the Mexicans.  He also tells his sister-in-law to leave, but she says she's staying because Bowie and she are family.  Quite a few families leave the Alamo. 

Crockett asks Travis to speak the truth to the men.  Travis does so.  He says he fears that no one is coming for them.  He says that if anyone wants to leave the Alamo they can.  No one indicates that they want to leave.  Travis adds:  "But if you wish to stay here, with me, in the Alamo, we will sell our lives dearly." 

Santa Anna says that General Cos will be the first to attack and he will take the weak north wall.  Col. Duque will follow from the northeast.  Romero will attack from the east.  Morales from the south.  One of the generals wants to wait for the arrival of their 12 pound cannon and blast down some of the walls of the Alamo and save some of their soldiers lives.  Santa Anna asks what are soldiers but so many chickens?  The men in the Alamo are pirates, and not soldiers, therefore, no prisoners will be taken. 

The Mexican soldiers are awakened in the night.  They form up and start marching closer to the Alamo.  A guard on duty outside the fort is killed by the Mexicans.  Crockett comes up on the wall and fires a bullet into a Mexican soldier.  That's the start of an all-out fight as the Texians get up and run to the walls..  More and more walls of the fort are attacked.  The Mexicans bring up their ladders and start climbing upwards.  Travis is shot in the head and is dead by the time he hits the ground.  The Mexicans start breeching the fort and the defenders pull back to another defensive position.  There are just way too many Mexicans for the Texians.  Many Mexican soldiers are dying, but so are many Texians. 

Mexicans burst into the room of Jim Bowie, who shoots two of the soldiers, but he is then killed by multiple bayonet wounds. 

Crockett is captured in a bayonet charge. 

Sam Houston prays for the men of the Alamo.  Sequin wonders what's happening to the men at the Alamo. 

Santa Anna tells Crockett he can beg for his life at this time.   Crockett says that the Mexicans can surrender to him and he'll try to save most of their lives when he takes them to Sam Houston.  But Houston is mighty prickly, so Crockett can't really promise much.  This is now translated for Santa Anna, who releases a bayonet squad on Crockett.

Sam Houston leaves Gonzales.  He has the structures burned down so they will be of no use to the Mexicans. 

Santa Anna says the Texians are retreating.  So he divides his forces into three groups to go after the Texians. 

Houston comes under a lot of pressure to stop and fight Santa Anna, but he keeps telling his men to break camp and continue heading east.  In private Sequin tells Houston that if they keep heading east, Houston is going to lose his army.  Houston tells the story of the return of Napoleon from Elba.  The great general moved east and, Wellington of the British, kept one step ahead of Napoleon waiting for the man to make a mistake.  As for the Texians:  "We shall move and wait until he [Santa Anna] makes a mistake and presents us with his own Waterloo."

The Texians capture a courier and learn that Santa Anna is separated from his army.  Houston thinks it's a good time to strike. 

A general tells Santa Anna that the Texians are only about two miles away and they are headed this way. 

Houston is now really close to the Mexican encampment in a wide-open field with no obstacle to hinder an attack. 

Preparations are being made for a Texian attack.  Houston tells his men:  "Remember the Alamo!"  Cannon balls knock down much of the ad-hoc defenses thrown up by the Mexicans.  General Cos is struck down with a blow from the butt of a rifle and then he is bayoneted.  The Texians easily breech the defensive works of the enemy.

"Santa Anna's army was defeated in 18 minutes."  Santa Anna is captured. 

"In exchange for his life, Santa Anna signed over all Mexican rights to Texas."

"Juan Seguin kept his promise to return to the Alamo.  He buried the remains of his fellow defenders in San Antonio, where they rest today."

"Nine years after the fall of the Alamo, Texas became the 28th state of the United States."



Good movie.  Many of the movies draw out the Mexican victory at the Alamo, with the Texians repulsing the Mexicans on several occasions.  This movie shows how the fort was captured by one, big attack during the night.  It doesn't show Davy Crockett as a coward, but as more of an average man who became a virtual legend in his own time.  Crockett appears as a man fully aware of his limitations and fully aware of the made-up Crockett of legend.  The film shows how relatively easy it was for thousands of Mexican soldiers to get into the Alamo and kill all its defenders.  There were too few Texians and way too many Mexicans. 

After the battle at the Alamo, the film doesn't stop to mourn the men of the Alamo.  The action goes right to Sam Houston and his defeat of Santa Anna and his army and Santa Anna agreeing to let Texas go to the Texians following his defeat at the Battle of San Jacinto (April 21, 1836).

The massacre at Goliad was left out of the movie.  

No real love stories in this movie.  And the women stayed out of the fight. 

No complaints about the acting.  All the main actors performed well.  Billy Bob Thornton was especially good as a toned-down Davy Crockett. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


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