The Crossing (2000 TV Movie)
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For some reason or another commenting on this movie requires at least ten lines. As much as I enjoyed it, there was nothing about it that suggest a comment with ten lines or more. Seven or less was plenty.
Kudos to Jeff Daniels, who offered a completely believable performance as Washington. Daniels is proving to be quite adept at these kinds of historical movies ("Gettysburg" leaps to mind, and of course now "Gods and Generals.") A good, if lesser known, supporting cast also made valuable contributions to this picture.
In short, I wouldn't use this as a source material for an essay on the Battle of Trenton, but I would certainly recommend it as a very good movie.
This story of the Delaware crossing is fast-paced and, along with the action, offers an intriguing look into the military strategy, decision-making and sheer desperation that drove the Revolutionary Army to its first great victory.
The Crossing may be a TV movie, but it would be equally at home in theaters. Well done, highly recommended viewing.
I'd also like to mention the excellent work of Sebastian Roche, who gets my award as the most versatile actor with accents since Meryl Streep. Believe it or not, Roche's biography has him born in Paris, France. Yet in "The Crossing" he plays a Maine Yankee. In Merlin, he played Sir Gawain. In "Liberty", the documentary on the Revolution, he played the Marquis de Lafayette. Although his performance was thoroughly captivating and sometimes moving, I thought his French accent for Lafayette, a genuine hero after all, was so over the top that it verged on being offensive. I couldn't help but enjoy it, but wondered if I would take so kindly to it if I was French. If Roche is French, I sincerely commend him for playing the role with a true sense of humor. His work is so good that I hope he gets his breakout role.
P.S. If you want to see another great performance, check out Philip Seymour Hoffman as Captain Joseph Plumb Martin in "Liberty." He got plenty of kudos in "Magnolia" and did a good job in "Scent of a Woman." When I saw him getting raves in "Magnolia", I was not surprised and very pleased. Let me just add that in "Liberty," there are a lot of terrific performances that may never be acknowledged, but make that documentary one of the best, most-moving in terms of emotional impact that I have ever seen.
This epic Telefilm has emotion , thrills, spectacular battles and based on historical deeds . Interesting plot about the dramatization of George Washington's perilous gamble of crossing the Delaware River and attacking the British forces at Trenton , based on a novel written by Howard Fast (Spartacus) who also written the teleplay .Good performance by main starring , Jeff Daniels , and memorable support cast plenty of known TV faces and mostly Canadian actors , such as Sebastian Roché , Roger Rees , Karl Pruner and Nigel Bennet . Evocative and glamorous cinematography by Rene Oshasi . Sensitive and appropriate musical score by Gary Chang . The motion picture was compellingly directed by Robert Harmon , a prestigious filmmaker of series and TV episodes and some movies as the successful The hitcher.
The picture was well based on historical deeds , adding more details , these are the following : In August 1776, British General William Howe launched a massive naval and land campaign designed to seize New York. The Continental Army under Washington engaged the enemy for the first time as an army of the newly independent United States at the Battle of Long Island, the largest battle of the entire war. The Americans were heavily outnumbered, many men deserted, and Washington was badly beaten. Subsequently, Washington was forced to retreat across the East River at night. Washington retreated north from the city to avoid encirclement, enabling Howe to take the offensive and capture Fort Washington on November 16 with high Continental casualties. Washington then retreated across New Jersey; the future of the Continental Army was in doubt due to expiring enlistments and the string of losses.On the night of December 25, 1776, Washington staged a comeback with a surprise attack on a Hessian outpost in western New Jersey. He led his army across the Delaware River to capture nearly 1,000 Hessians in Trenton, New Jersey. The Battle of Trenton was over in less than an hour. American losses were 2 killed and 5 wounded. One of the wounded was Lieutenant James Monroe, the future Fifth President of the United States. Lieutenant Monroe was also reputed to be the man standing next to George Washington and holding the American flag in Emanuel Leutze's famous painting, "Washington Crossing the Delaware". Also, it was widely believed that the Hessians were intoxicated as a result of their Christmas celebrations. That has been proved by historians to not be the case . Washington followed up his victory at Trenton with another over British regulars at Princeton in early January. The British retreated back to New York City and its environs, which they held until the peace treaty of 1783. Washington's victories wrecked the British carrot-and-stick strategy of showing overwhelming force then offering generous terms. The Americans would not negotiate for anything short of independence
General Washington's meetings with the generals and Colonel Mercer were also very insightful into how close the American Army was to collapse in the early years of the fight. Soldiers volunteer slips were coming to an end, Generals were fighting each other, and the infamous General Winter was coming in to help things... No attack could have been more ill-advised, but Washington's succeeded and this movie portrays everything leading up to it wonderfully
8 out of 10.
Jeff Daniels is Gen. George Washington and delivers the most believable portrayal I've seen. He is portrays Washington as exactly how he would have been: tired, disheartened, but still with a glimmer of hope. His words are delivered in the voice a general way and just seems to capture the man perfectly.
The supporting cast is excellent. Sebastian Roche is perfect in the portrayal of Col. Glover. He is bored, rebellious, and one of the smartest men in Washington's army. Roche is able to deliver every line he says with the emotion (or in some cases the annoyance) needed to give the film a little more humor.
The film covers from the week before the crossing of the Delaware to the Battle of Trenton. The battle scenes, though few, are filmed as they should be in any film. Graphic, intense, and heart-pounding. The battles show the brilliance of his plans and how un-prepared the Hessians were. By far the best part of the film is the way the filmmakers are able to emphasize the importance of the battle and how if they lost it was the war the lose also.
The Crossing. Starring: Jeff Daniels, Sebastian Roche, Roger Rees, and Steven McCarthy.
4 out of 5 Stars
I don't know about the dialog. There's quite a bit of vulgarity, for one thing. It's not objectionable but it's surprising in a made-for-television movie. For another thing, Washington's men speak in carefully articulated phrases, sometimes flowery. Well, that's the way they WROTE, of course -- those who could write at all. But I suspect there was a more considerable gap between the written and the spoken word than there is today. The natural, unnatural rhythm of speech -- full of hesitations, gulps, crutch words, editing, mistakes, retractions -- doesn't really show up in the literature of the time, fictional or otherwise. It took somebody like Steven Crane to put street talk down on paper in novels like "Maggie" and "The Red Badge of Courage." The gap still exists, of course. In his State of the Union Address the president never talks the way he talks to his wife or his dog. And some of Washington's pronouncement sounds like pomposity. "Gentlemen, if God is willing, we will have our way with the enemy. I bid you a heartfelt Godspeed -- and break a leg." Although, who knows? There were no recording studios at the time.
There are also moments when something Washington says sounds like narcissism. "We have fought many time and been defeated. I will not be defeated again." Surely, he means "We." A promise that "I" will do something is reserved for General MacArthur, not General Washington. (Kids, MacArthur retreated from the Phillipines saying, "I shall return." He said it for three years, then he returned.)
It's the story of Washington's crossing the Delaware with the ragtag remnants of his army and defeating the Hessians at Trenton. The Hessians make better villains than the British because they were mercenaries from another country, unlike the "government contractors" we use today. Another reason is that they were from what is now Germany, though it wasn't then, and we've fought Germany more recently than we've fought Britain.
I'm convinced the crossing we see is more realistic than it is in that famous painting by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze that hangs in the Metropolitan Museum. It's revolting. Washington stands up near the bow of the boat as everybody else is working like hell to get the vessel across a river choked with chunks of ice. Only ONE MAN in that painting is actually rowing. And an enormous American flag unfolds in the breeze, as if the boat were charging ahead at sixty miles an hour. In this movie, Washington makes a mistake and misjudges the amount of time it will take to get his troops across the Delaware, despite warnings from his subordinate, Colonel Glover, who leads a contingent of Gloucester fishermen.
I said the movie was informative and it is. I didn't know, for instance, that Glover was in complete command of the loading and unloading of the stolen boats, and in command of the crossing itself while on the river. Glover, by the way, is played by Sebastian Roché, whose face was familiar to me. It took me a while to realize he'd played a hedonistic rock star named "C Square" in an episode of "Law & Order." The guy was born in Paris and speaks four languages. I also didn't realize that Alexander Hamilton and James Monroe were with Washington at Trenton. There's more honest brutality than you might expect. Six unsuspecting Hessians are caught after a Christmas celebration, hung over and half asleep at dawn, and Washington's men chop them to pieces with sabers.
It's comforting, though, to see that in such a changing and disappointing universe, some things remain ever the same. The officers ride horses while the enlisted men walk, as I did.
While properly trained, none of these soldiers were mercenaries. They were mostly the sons of peasants and artisans that were pressed into service and sent overseas to fight for a foreign king in a hostile country. With the exception of a few high ranking officers who spoke french or English they were mostly unable to communicate with the locals. Later on however, as the hessians eventually got a better understanding of the conflict, more than a third of them deserted their regiments, joined the American forces and stayed after the end of the war. Also part of the American force that won the final victory over the British in Yorktown was an all-volunteer German regiment under the command of General von Steuben.
How often can one honestly refer to a costume drama as a "nail biter" or "cliff hanger?" Yet "The Crossing" is just that. The tension is nearly unbearable at times. The film skillfully communicates the anxiety that Washington and his officers must have felt as the hours slipped by and the fate of a nation literally hung in the balance.
Perhaps most amazing of all, this film, a must see for every patriotic American, was written by Howard Fast, a card carrying member of the Communist Party of the USA. How's that for irony?
One thing I observed though. You really have to see this movie without having seen "Dumb and Dumber" recently beforehand. Jeff Daniels is super in the role, but watching him as Washington, I couldn't help but remember that this was the same guy whom I earlier saw had his tongue get stuck in ice at a ski ledge and had severe diarrhea problems in a previous slapstick comedy with Jim Carrey. A bit unseemly for someone playing the Father of the Nation!
All in all, this is certainly worth your time.
1. They try to claim in one of the beginning scenes that Americans are fighting for "liberty and equality". No, that's the French revolution (Liberty, equality, fraternity). The American slogan would have been "life, liberty, and property" (Property was changed to the "pursuit of happiness" in the declaration of independence by Benjamin Franklin, who did not want the south to later use this phrase as an excuse to think the revolution was endorsing their right to keep slaves). The foundation of our country was the right to pursue your God given life and keep what God has given you. When you introduce the idea that we were fighting for equality that opens up the potential for major distortion of the revolution; because although "equality" sounds nice, the meaning of it in the context of the French revolution often means "equality of outcomes", or to put it another way: wealth redistribution from the rich to the poor. The antithesis of American revolutionary values.
2. Elsewhere, the Hessians are depicted as mercenaries who fight for money (historical point of fact, the money all went to the ruler of the Hessian state. The soldiers were obligated to fight wherever they were commanded to and saw no personal share of the money) - which by itself would not be a big deal, if not for the fact that this is used by one of the characters to point out to Washington that the American soldiers are no better than the Hessians because they are really just fighting over the money related to taxation. Worse still, Washington is portrayed to reluctantly admit they are right. None of this is true. Although a commonly repeatedly lie that the revolutionary's primary cause was merely "taxation with representation", the truth is that it was only one minor issue amongst many more serious issues. Injustice in the judicial system, Britain abusing it's powers and taking away the representative rights of the colonies, were far more foundational problems. Taxation without representation was merely a symptom of deeper issues that involves Britain abusing the colonists, denying them various fundamental rights and due process, and moving to give them no say in their own governance. These are things the colonists had historically enjoyed, but which were coming under increasing attack as the Britain tried to assert more direct control over the colonies. Something people don't know is that taxation without representation was only the 17th problem listed in the Declaration of Independence, out of 27 issues, and was only a minor mention compared with the numerous mentions of other abuses.
3. George Washington is depicted as someone with flexible morality (portraying him as someone who is committing some kind of great offense against a business owner by using his boats, when historically he wrote a letter to the governor of the state requesting all boats be put on a particular side of the river, with no suggestion that people thought this was some undue burden on their livelyhood in the dead of winter when the river would be frozen solid in a few days anyway). Moreso it depicts Washington as someone who would freely curse and even insult his generals in front of the men to make fun of them. None of that is true. In fact, Washington would discipline soldiers who were caught cursing. http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=24548 Washington is known historically to be a man of extraordinary good character, humility, and good will towards others. His saintly reputation of respect and admiration throughout our country's history is well deserved considering that his devote commitment to Christianity was the only thing that allowed him to hold power, govern justly, and then leave after eight years of his own choosing without having enriched himself in the process. France showed us, with Bonaparte, what happens when a man of lesser character gets that kind of power; crowning himself emperor and spending most of his reign drafting up the French population to fight wars. For the most part there are many positive aspects of Washington's character that comes out in Daniel's portrayal of him, which I appreciate. Unfortunately, like the film as a whole, this typifies what we see where there is a lot of good stuff going on with the film that is spoiled by the insertion of poisonous historical lies which would leave the viewer with a deeply flawed perspective of the American revolution.
These are not just minor historical foibles or creative license that can be overlooked. The first two issues especially undermine the core purpose and nature of the revolution. Given that, I must give it 1 star, despite it's entertainment value, because it has no redeeming value as historical storytelling. I would not recommend anyone watch this to learn more about what happened, without knowing about these key flaws beforehand. Nor would I use it as a teaching aid, as historical movies sometimes are, because of these fatal errors in the film. Like rat poison, the poison of historical lies may not take up much of the screen time compared with the totality of the film, but what little is there is lethal to enabling someone to come away from the film with a truthful understanding of our history. The nature of these lies would undermine's someone trust in the founding principles of our country if believed; if they thought it was nothing but a fight over taxes and our most revered founder were not even that committed to living by the principles he was suppose to be fighting for. I can see no other reason for these lies to be inserted other than for the purpose of undermining people's respect and appreciation for the country they have inherited.