Texas Rising online movie review - Jarring disconnects, good acting
First, I do want to make it clear that I found the acting performances, on whole, to be quite good.
Sam Houston has been portrayed better in prior versions of the Texas Revolution but Bill Paxton does a very credible job when he is sticking to actual historical events and not sliding sideways into the screenwriter fantasies which unfortunately abound in this production.
The Ranger characters are uniformly well done. Some might question the range of their individual characters from towering heroes such as the portrayal of Deaf Smith to the less savory characters, but then the early Rangers were sometimes recruited with little or no consideration of their overall "moral nature." Historically, of course, the Rangers did not actually exist as a body until after the Revolution. Austin did have an unofficial group of men who acted as peacekeepers prior to the revolution, but the body as portrayed in the series did not exist.
There are fictionalized or marginalized characters inserted for political correctness. I shall not dwell on them. I will note that Juan Sequin is NOT one of them; his portrayal as a patriotic and heroic figure is not included as some type of sop to Hispanics. Juan Sequin was a genuine man of valor and historic stature. His story could be the basis for an exceptional biographical production in itself. He was a Mexican patriot fighting against a man he considered a tyrant even while many of the men he fought alongside looked down upon him because of his Hispanic heritage. I am sure he agonized over this because actual history bears it out. I am not speaking of our current "reconstructed" history which has more to do with modern sensibilities than fact.
Including the Comanche and their actions is historically correct but truly grants little to the production. They should be much more active but seem to be shown as "monsters lingering in the background" more than as who and what they represented. They should have been built up or left out; what is shown does no justice to their history, their fight for their culture or the menace they represented to the entire Southwest.
Santa Ana is portrayed...well, not that badly. He may be shown as a bit younger than he actually was at the time; he was in his early forties at the time of the Revolution. A figure that is usually portrayed as akin to a monster, the man could be personally charming, and undoubtedly possessed personal courage and charisma to a high degree. He did perpetrate atrocities, but he didn't start in Texas. He had put down multiple rebellious Mexican states before he ever came to Texas and did so with great brutality. The Alamo was not the first time he had prisoners executed out of hand. I do not doubt he saw the Anglos as invading pests, but their greatest sin in his eyes was that they opposed him. He was a figure driven by a towering ego, but then towering egos were hardly in short supply in North America at the time. Andrew Jackson springs to mind.
So I accept, generally, the quality of the acting. And generally, the actual flow and time sequence of the Revolution is portrayed fairly accurately. The greatest disconnect is the insistence of the producers in showing Texas as a huge desert-like mountain range. THE American WEST myth grabs hold of this production and shakes it by the throat. The only surprise is it wasn't filmed entirely in Monument Valley, and I suspect it would have been if not for money and availability problems. There ARE mountains in Texas, but they are far to the west of where the actual events took place. There is the Hill country north and west of San Antonio which is fairly arid and does have some rocky terrain. However, the scenes with encampments atop towering plateaus overlooking huge canyons and such just collide with the realities of history. San Jacinto is fairly accurately portrayed; it IS pretty much a swamp. But overall the production is set in terrain which is more akin to Tatooine than central and east Texas. As a native son, it grates. It is like showing Washington at Valley Forge sprawled on a beach catching a few rays and kicking back in the sun.
Acting is a plus but the visuals simply drag the entire production down.