Making the Grades
Fighting for their right to establish a republic, independent from the control of Mexico, never seemed so daunting as it did on the day a little group of Texans-Anglo and Tejano-stood their ground at the Alamo in the spring of 1836.
At first glance, the crumbling walls of the old Franciscan mission built deep in the heart of Texas hardly seems worth defending. But for Lt. Col. William Barrett Travis (Patrick Wilson), the posting at the Alamo is an opportunity to prove himself in the military arena---a place to start over after a dispassionate divorce from his young wife. For those with him, it's a second chance in a world that often eschews those who need it most.
At 26 and a bit of a dandy, the newly appointed officer's first challenge is to earn the respect of his campaign-hardened cavalrymen and unite them with the group of unruly militiamen who fight for James Bowie (Jason Patric).
Even though he's battling a terminal illness, Bowie, a hard-drinking scoundrel and adventurer, still commands the allegiance of his men and isn't eager to give it up. He's been sent by General Sam Houston (Dennis Quaid) to retrieve the cannons from the Alamo and destroy the fort in hopes of avoiding a confrontation with the notorious Mexican leader Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana (Emilio Echevarria). Only Bowie's loyalty to the people of the little village keeps him from following through with the order.
Then on February 23, Santa Ana's well trained and smartly uniformed army surround the fort and lay siege. Marching his ranks increasingly closer to the outside walls, the charismatic army officer parades his power before the men inside, playing a measured game of military one-upmanship for thirteen long days.
Realizing the direness of their predicament, the group of devoted Texans rallies round their leaders. Although inspired by the presence of the legendary Davy Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton) who stands on the fort's wall and defies the pompous actions of Santa Ana, the inhabitants of the Alamo have to decide for themselves if they want to stay.
Their commitment to a cause greater than themselves is the backbone for this telling of the famed Alamo story and makes the movie more than just an epic saga. Despite their personal flaws, these individuals face the Napoleonic leader and fight for the freedom of a new country. While even moviemakers can't rewrite the fateful events of that early March morning, Director John Hancock instills admiration for the men who gave their lives in the cause of liberty.
With intense and bloody battle scenes, this sobering film is unsuitable for children. But older teens and parents may gain new insights into the reality of war and the confrontation that took place in the remote regions of Texas, kick starting its journey to statehood. Unfortunately standing up to bullies doesn't always ensure coming out on top, but having the courage to do it is an important ideal that still has merit today.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Alamo.
Davy Crockett became a legend during his lifetime, partly due to the stories that grew about his life on the frontier. How does Davy react to his fame as portrayed in this movie? What are some of the challenges of being well known? Is it easy to live up to the beliefs of others?
Despite the horrible odds, the men and women of the Alamo held their ground for their beliefs. What things would you consider important enough to give your life for? What freedoms and opportunities do you enjoy because of the sacrifices of others?
Historians have collected information on the siege of the Alamo including personal accounts recorded by the participants and survivors. To learn more about the events and people involved, go to: http://www.thealamo.org/alamo_in_1836.htm.