I decided to sit down with John Wayne’s directorial debut, The Alamo, this afternoon. It’s an epic western that was considered a dream project for Wayne and one that definitely reflects his views of America. Ultimately, I’m conflicted on this film. The film’s length is probably its biggest issue. I happened to watch the 192 minute “roadshow” version of the film, and it just feels overstuffed with material. The story plods along, feeling as if it lacks focus. I usually dislike it when people criticize a film for being “too long” (it just seems lazy), but in this instance I felt like the film didn’t make the best use of its length.
On the upside, I found the performances suited the material just fine, with supporting actors Richard Widmark and Lawrence Harvey being particular standouts. Wayne does his usual thing as Davey Crockett, which is fine by me. But the real standout of the film is its scale and set design. For the production a full-scale replica of the Alamo was built, supposedly using the original blueprints. Also, Wayne managed to gather thousands of extras together for the climatic battle – a truly impressive sight. The mass chaos and scale of the fight make the film worth watching, if nothing else. The score from Dimitri Tiomkin stands out as well.
Overall, while I was disappointed on some level with The Alamo, I’m glad that I watched it, just for the experience.