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My opinion is that Andersonville is the best Civil War movie ever made,
period. As a former Civil War reenactor, I'm not going to sit here and
nitpick at all the "mistakes." Were there mistakes? Sure. The timeline
was a little fuzzy for one. But that does not detract from the power of
this movie. The guards were not well fed regulars either, but so what?
don't have to take a test after watching this movie!
I think the REAL factor in Andersonville being such a great production was the fact that you had no real "name" people involved. Fredric Forrest may have been the biggest name in the film and is a career role actor - but WHAT an actor! These guys busted their balls for this film and it really shows. I heard one reenactor complain that the characters seemed "cartoonish," and I don't buy it. I bet he was refering to Jan Triska who played Wirz. Well, read up on Wirz. I think they got it pretty close.
Forgive me, my reenacting brethern, but alhough Gettysburg was a tolerable film (I got to be an extra in that) and Gods and Generals was a disaster, the problem with these productions was the fact that they relied way too heavily on reenactors. Reenactors are NOT actors! They were used most effectively in Glory, not so well in Gettysburg, and Gods and Generals? Don't want to even go there. Andersonville followed Glory's success formula in using reenactors as background with small parts filled in by them (my buddy Martin Leibschner playing the banjo in the Raider camp was a good use of the talent reenactors can bring to film).
Frankenheimer must be given a lot of credit, as should the writer. The script did get a little cheesy here and there, but not enough again to trash the overall production. Jarrod Emick (sp?) as Josiah Day did a nice job, but until that point he had been a stage actor mostly, and his voice inflections projected that. Still, he did a great job. Peter Murnik as Limber Jim added that "mystery character" to the film well (as the real Limber Jim who was at Andersonville is a mystery to history). Again, I can't think of one lame performance by any of the key actors here. They put 110% into the job and I commend them for it. And whoever was involved in the set design was on the ball too. To try and recreate that place was no small task.
I remember a reenactor bitching because for the "filling" of the stockade for the wide shots, they had to use women and even cardboard figures. Big frekin deal! When they are dots on the screen, did it REALLY matter?
I can't see this movie being topped in terms of a Civil War period piece. Hollywierd is always bent on turning just about every period piece into some type of romance for the younger target audience. Andersonville is certainly a refreshing change of pace to that drill.
The movie Andersonville was one of intense drama. The historical subject
matter made the film all the more pertinent to society today. Man against
Man, Brother against Brother. That is what the Civil War was, and
Andersonville was its worst. Men treating other men like animals and game
for sport. The utter despair. The terrible suffering.
Andersonville is set during the Civil War, in the south, in a Prisoner Of War camp run by the Confederate Army. The story depicts the conditions of suffering that the Union soldiers endured while held captive. The best and the worst of humanity is shown in this film as the viewer is shown all ends of the spectrum of pain and suffering.
Peter Murnik's character, Limber Jim, was the voice of conscience in this film. Jim was the one who finally stood up to the injustice that other Union soldiers were enacting against their fellows. It was Jim who rallied the troops to a riot to stop the "Raiders" from continuing their carnage. Not a single 'Peter' scene went by without the viewer sensing the intensity. He portrayed it in his face, in his demeanor and most of all, in his eyes. In this film, Peter said so much without uttering a word. The look he gave in his eyes told the viewer the intensity of his feelings. His determination. His desire to see the wrongs righted. In a sense, Limber Jim was one of the saviours of this film. His standing up to the injustice he witnessed and lived through, enabled his fellow prisoners to also rise up and change the world around them, as small as it was.
In spite of the fact that this was a film and an artistic production, the real Andersonville shone through. The viewer came away knowing the despair that the Union soldiers felt and lived. There was no question that humanity, as a whole, had been wronged by the cruelty that took place at Andersonville. The human race came away from Andersonville worse off for having realized that we could fall so far from the very civilization we pride ourselves on creating to treat other fellow human beings the way the Union soldiers were treated.
Andersonville actually existed, and does so today as a Federal Park and tourist attraction. This movie is a very good link in telling the tale that so many never got to tell. The actors, staff and crew of Andersonville did such a magnificent job that anyone seeing this movie will know what it was like to have been there. They will know the suffering, the pain, the disease, the despair. The cast and crew are to be applauded for their efforts.
In his bio, Peter lists Andersonville as one of the projects he is most proud of. And, well he should be. He did an excellent performance and is to be commended. It will go down as one of the favorites with his fans. Once again, Peter's genius comes shining through.
In the wake of the critical and commercial success of A Man For All
Seasons, Fred Zinnemann unsuccessfully attempted to use his post-Oscar
clout to make a film about the atrocities at the infamous Confederate
Civil War prison camp where 12,912 Union prisoners of war died of
starvation and disease, but as many others had found out before him,
studio chiefs didn't think it was the sort of thing to reverse
declining cinema attendance and pulled the plug before a frame was
shot. There had been a small-scale early TV play about the post-war
trial of the officer in charge but it wasn't until Ted Turner's success
with Gettysburg that a full-scale dramatisation of life inside the
stockade made it to the screen, and then only on the small one. The
biggest name on the credits of Andersonville is director John
Frankenheimer, then going through something of a critical comeback
returning to the medium that first brought him to prominence: the cast
is good, but it's more a case of a few familiar faces rather than big
stars Frederic Forrest, Cliff de Young, William Sanderson, William H.
Macey among a cast largely made up of little-known actors. Yet it's
very clear that a lot of money has been spent, and that it's been made
on a truly epic scale. Rarely has the old copywriters' pitch 'a cast of
thousands' seemed more appropriate as almost every scene boasts swathes
of re-enactors to fill out the overcrowded prison.
Despite being made for television it never looks threadbare and it never feels like its playing down the ugliness of the situation in the name of taste or network censorship even if it doesn't dwell on the details as much as it could. Built for 8000 but ending up housing 45,000, Andersonville itself was little more than a cattle pen: no barracks, a fetid stream, a lot of mud and far too many inmates surrounded by a wall and watchtowers, it didn't take much to turn it into a festering hellhole, with rations often withheld by the commander, water so rancid that inmates had to wring rainwater from their clothes to avoid fever, child guards daring prisoners to cross the 'dead line' so they could kill them for a bounty and prisoners forming gangs to prey on and often kill each other. Even Confederate officials regarded it as 'a disgrace to civilisation.' In a war as ugly as the one between the States, it's some measure of how bad things were that the only man convicted and executed for war crimes in the entire Civil War was the commander of Andersonville.
As drama it's fairly straightforward, following a group of new arrivals through their first days in the camp to the time those few who survive leave, taking in many of the expected conventions of the prison movie en route escape attempts, futile deaths, dashed hopes and a near-riot. At times it does threaten to turn into a Civil War version of a WW2 P.O.W. movie, but it's held back from the pitfalls of great escapism by the fact that where many of those films often naively showed German prison camps as virtual holiday camps where the inmates tried to escape almost as a game, Andersonville makes it clear that here attempting to escape is seen as the only alternative to dying in squalor and pain. While there are few surprises, it's executed with real conviction, Frankenheimer's superb direction complemented by excellent photography from Ric Waite and production design by Michael Z. Hanan. That said, it is annoying that Warners' DVD has been needlessly cropped from fullframe into 1.85:1 widescreen, a reverse cropping that is just as bad as panning-and-scanning widescreen films into fullframe. While most of the 167 minutes it's not too damaging, there are some close-ups that become way too tight at times, although it's generally only a momentary distraction.
John Frankenheimer pain stakingly chronicles prisoners of war struggling to survive in an ill run Confederate prison camp during the Civil War. New prisoners are savagely introduced to the pecking order in this small pit of hell. Strong images support the story line for this well written and produced epic. Featured cast members in this trial of humanity are:Frederic Forrest, William Sanderson, Jarrod Emick, Jayce Bartok, Cliff De Young, Justin Henry and William H. Macy. It is hard to find fault in this glimpse of the notorious place called Andersonville.
As a practicing Civil War re-enactor, I have found myself drawn into viewing
this movie several times. I considered the movie to be the result of a very
thorough and extensive research done by its creators. Everything was
completely in accordance with what we in the re-enacting community call "of
the period". I am speaking of authenticity. I have studied the true-life
accounts left to us in the words of both Union and Confederate soldiers
found in exerpts from the pages of their personal diaries, and in so doing,
I have been able to combine this newly acquired knowledge with other
experiences and studies related to this time period in our nation's history.
After doing this, I was then able to formulate unbiased opinions about the
We have to remember that the people of the middle nineteenth century were men and women just like us. There was nothing "mysterious" about their ways, their words, their fears and all their other emotions. I felt that these natural human reactions and outlooks were well portrayed by the actors of the movie, "Andersonville".
As a Civil War buff, this is one of my favorite films.
If you enjoy romantic war stories, don't rent this. There are no romantic plot lines or even women in the movie. The closest thing to a romantic plot line would be when Martin speaks of his wife and asks Josiah to send her his wedding ring.
If you enjoy war films that are not cluttered with cliche romantic plots and are more like buddy films this one is for you. The acting is amazing, and the story if fresh look at a little known part of Civil War history.
The only problem with the film is time spent watching the men weaken and starve. Those scenes could have been cut a bit, but overall they are needed in order to feel the despair of the men.
The story and characters are completely enthralling and I recommend this film to everyone. Just be prepared to cry.
This is a sobering, if perhaps a bit too long, recreation of life in
the notorious Confederate Camp Sumter (better known as Andersonville
after the neighbouring community) which housed almost 50000 Union
prisoners of war during the last year and a half of the Civil War. I
found it difficult to determine from what perspective the story was
being told - which perhaps makes it a fairly balanced movie. There's no
doubt that the Confederate guards were portrayed as ruthless, and that
Captain Henry Wirtz, the Camp's commander, was portrayed as both
ruthless and perhaps a bit insane, but the bulk of the movie really
deals with the problem of factionalism between the Union prisoners, as
a group known as the "Raiders" establish their own ruthless control
over the other prisoners, stealing from them, withholding supplies from
them and sometimes murdering them. The first half of the movie dealt
largely with this internal conflict, and was very interesting. The
point at which the rest of the prisoners rebelled against them and
finally, with Wirtz's approval, put them on trial, seemed to mark a
transition in the movie. After their trial and the execution of the
ringleaders, the movie took on more of an air of hopelessness (and
perhaps became a bit less interesting), as the prisoners await a
liberation that, in the movie at least, never comes, as the movie ends
with the prisoners being transferred to other prisons.
The movie begins somewhat abruptly with Union soldiers captured in battle being sent into the hellhole that was Andersonville, but there was no real historical context given. It might have been more interesting to see the camp from the beginning, and to trace the descent of the camp into what it became. The whole Andersonville issue is historically controversial, and the movie alludes to the controversy, with Wirtz pleading with a Confederate colonel sent to inspect the camp for more supplies, and many today think Wirtz was unfairly condemned after the war for a situation that was largely out of his control. I thought his portrayal in the movie was fair. Others complain that conditions in Union camps were also harsh, but that's neither here nor there for the purposes of evaluating this movie, which certainly presented a sobering enough look at the conditions in this particular camp - which was, after all, its purpose.
The movie features not a stellar cast (there are some fairly well known faces, but no mega-stars) but a solid cast that did a pretty good job with their roles. 7/10
If you ever find yourself with a long afternoon and nothing to do, head down to the video store and pick this one up. For drama-lovers, this is about the most dramatic movie around. Andersonville reveals so much about human nature as clans of prisoners form and battle each other for limited resources, some become delusional and die in the throngs of madness, and others starve from sheer despair. The complex characters in the film are its most compelling element, and their realism will convince the viewer that he is watching these scenes unfold from the guard tower. I was glued to the screen for the whole (very long) movie. It gets even better when you realize that 15,000 prisoners actually died in this camp in the Civil War.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I believe this is one of the best and most fair-minded Civil War movies
ever made. The actors all give a first-rate performance, and the
director keeps the movie focused and on track, without laying blame to
either side. Most of the movies facts are historically accurate and the
dialog reproduces (in my opinion) the attitudes of the times.
The Raiders were a historical reality, and the trial and subsequent execution were unique during the Civil War.
While many parts of the movie are memorable, the most poignant scene is at the end when one of the major characters is buried in the cemetery. The camera zooms in on the white-painted headboard with his name, and then pans back to show you the real, present-day cemetery - with this particular headstone name in the center. Seeing nearly 13,000 headstones of real-life prisoners who died at Andersonville really puts the film in perspective.
Generally these TNT original productions are nothing what one could call spectacular. This film from John Frankenheimer however is one of the better ones. A tale of imprisonment and survival inside the notorious Confederate POW camp known as Andersonville. Civil War historians would probably with certainty find various historical inaccuracies but it is worth viewing although a tad on the long side. Good performances from many of the cast but it seems Frederick Coffin and William Sanderson do the best job as two of the ring leaders of the camps vicious "Raiders" gang. A must see for any Civil War fan.
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