A week ago today, I complained that we don’t have enough movies about the Founding Fathers. Today, I get news that Johnny Depp is producing, and may star in, a movie about Paul Revere and the Battle of Lexington and Concord.
I suspect that no matter how this comes to pass, it will be more Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s version, less David Hackett Fischer’s (if you haven’t read Paul Revere’s Ride, I recommend it highly). The thing that’s always impressed me about Revere’s ride is not that he made it all the way, because he didn’t, but that once he was out of British custody, he came back to Lexington and snuck a bunch of John Hancock’s papers out of Buckman Tavern — while the battle was still going on behind him. It’s an act of rather stupendous badassery enabled by the general confusion about everything that was going on at the time.
But then, the whole Battle of Lexington and Concord, despite the fact that the Colonials got badly beaten at Lexington, is really kind of astonishing. That the Colonial forces activated this theoretical plan based on disused defense practices from times when clashes with Native Americans were more frequent, and that it worked, is tremendous and exciting and moving — and it should be. There are a lot of ways to tell the heroic stories of that day, including my favorite, an elderly man who basically set up a sniper station to shoot at the British as they marched past his house, was bayonetted repeatedly, survived, and went on to remarry and live another decade. Paul Revere is an easily dramatized way into the story, but a movie about it that takes a broader scope is potentially much more interesting, particularly if it deprives Depp chances to mug wildly while on horseback, and maybe do something Jack Sparrow-like, including getting knocked off said horse by a low-hanging tree limb. And given that all the relevant buildings in Lexington are still standing, it would be cool if they shot locally.