2004's The Alamo is one of the most undeserved flops of recent years (and possibly inflation-adjusted as big a disaster as Heaven's Gate). Bad timing may account or some of it, as America's image went from besieged victims to bloody aggressors (certainly it was barely even released outside the US), but the film's sombre, mournful tone is probably more to blame - beginning with the dead bodies of the defeated defenders, there's a sadness and inevitability to the film that's the complete antithesis of the feelgood destruction-and-revenge of Pearl Harbor. Even Carter Burwell's haunting low-key score is more a lament than the broad action scoring you might expect. The script is well crafted, the characterisation surprisingly strong and the comparative absence of cgi pays dividends with a level of verisimilitude that's been lacking from most recent epics. It also benefits from an extraordinary performance from Billy Bob Thornton as Davey ("He prefers David") Crockett, a crowd-pleaser faced with having to live up to his own legend, and blessed with the film's best dialogue and it's best scene as he silences the Mexican guns with his fiddle. Thornton owns the film in a way I haven't seen from any actor for a long, long time. He's definitely the heart and soul of the movie. Thankfully, it's not quite a one-man show. Patrick Wilson does surprisingly well as Travis, Jason Patric's tediously one-note surliness is for once put to effective use as Bowie and the supporting cast is filled with great faces, all caught wonderfully by Dean Semler's superb cinematography. Only Dennis Quaid fares less well as Houston, failing to make much of his admittedly limited opportunities. True it falters somewhat after the fall of the Alamo, but it's still an impressive, intelligent and sometimes quietly moving epic that didn't deserve its fate at the box-office.
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