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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Superior Documentary.

8/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
3 July 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I write this on July 3rd, 2010. Tomorrow is Independence Day when the entire nation will celebrate its victory in the Revolutionary War. Last week, a Marist College survey asked respondents which country we won independence from. The good news: seventy-four percent got it right. The bad news: one out of every five Americans did not know which country we won independence from. The even WORSE news: six percent named the wrong countries, ranging from Mexico to China.

Accurate, dramatic, informative documentaries from The History Channel -- Now, more than ever! This series is a big improvement over Charles Kuralt's series of ten years earlier. Not because it's narrated by Edward Hermann instead of the late Charles Kuralt, but because it's longer, so it includes more personal, civil, and military details, and because it obviously had a bigger budget.

The earlier series seemed filmed all at once in the same location and season -- a mild winter day within a milieu of skeletal trees and a carpet of dry dead leaves. Here, when a column of soldiers marches through South Carolina, it LOOKS like South Carolina. And the winter in Morristown is convincingly snowy.

Also, Kuralt's resources were limited beyond the constraints of the budget. Now, when a cannon ball plows up the ground, there is a CGI of a puff of black dirt and smoke. And I don't know who did the research on this series but it was a job well done, with quotations not just from somebody with the name of Samuel Plum, but other grunts too, and George Washington and Cornwallis stuck in Yorktown and the comfortable, self-indulgent Clinton in New York City.

We don't really hear much about the Revolutionary War. Not really. Not in any detail. One of the reasons may be that, although we "won," the victory was won over a nation that has been our staunchest ally for the past century or more. The US and the UK have been through two bloody world wars together and are now engaged side by side in the Middle East. Too many military histories flourish because they are able to demonize the enemy in ways both major and minor. It's hard to watch an older documentary like "Victory at Sea" nowadays without a shudder at the way the narrator pronounces the word "Japanese," using the same morphemic contours some bluenose might use for "pornography."

I would guess that the majority of Americans couldn't name a single battle of the Revolutionary War. Those that could, would probably come up with Yorktown (we won -- hell, we named an aircraft carrier after it). Those whose interests extend farther beyond their own body sheaths might come up with Cowpens (we won). Maybe Trenton (we won). You'd have to go pretty far down the list to reach Camden (we lost). Most histories emphasize the victories of the country of their origin. But "The Revolutionary War" avoids this. Its even-handedness is admirable. The defeats at Camden and Charleston are right up there with the better known victories.

Maps are plentiful and clear. Reenactments take up most of the footage, and some portraits of leaders as well, since after all no photographs are available.

The episodes on what's known as The Southern Strategy were particularly informative. With a stalemate in the North, the British moved an army into the Southern cities hoping to find more loyalist sentiment. But when they found themselves in the backwoods and uphill country they ran into disorganized bands of feuding loyalists and patriots calling themselves "militia" and fighting clan feuds left over from the original settlement of the area. Think Hatfields and McCoys. In other words, instead of finding themselves hailed by the locals, the British troops wound up in the middle of civil war, with they themselves being treated more as an alien force. Meanwhile, back in London, the English were tearing their hair out over the apparent endlessness and the expense of the war in money and in lives. Here comes Santayana.

Also surprising, to me anyway, was the role of the French. It amounted to far more than some symbolic "Lafayette." France and England at the time were traditional enemies. What began as a small rebellion in Boston had turned into a world-wide war six years later, with the French Navy keeping the British fleet occupied in places as far away as Calcutta. And the British surrender at Yorktown was preceded by a four-day battle between the French and British navies in the Chesapeake. Seven thousand British troops yielded to 12,000 American -- and 5,000 French soldiers. We did not win it alone.

I guess I'm also surprised that the war didn't end with a wholesale slaughter of the opposition, and with one dictator replacing another. That seems to be how revolutions usually wind up.

Our shared cultural data base is shrinking at an alarming rate. That's one reason I recommend seeing this documentary. Boy, do I recommend it.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A worthy, if not flawed, history

8/10
Author: lmbelt from United States
7 July 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Please do not be dissuaded from watching this series should the chance arise, or you be inclined to purchase the set. All in all, a very informative documentary. The reenactments serve their purpose given the budget, the reenactors are not as fat as the typical Civil War reenactors, the professional actors with few exceptions work their parts, and the history is compelling.

That said, let me point out some glaring errors/omissions. First, I agree with an earlier reviewer that the Battle of Princeton should not have been omitted. More glaring omissions relate to - and correct me if I am wrong; some of the 13 hour series was watched while performing household chores - no mention of either Lafayette or Francis Marion, The Swamp Fox. Not enough attention given to Alexander Hamilton or "Lighthorse Harry" Lee (R.E. Lee's father).

The most glaring error: the series leads us to believe George and Martha had children, whereas Washington's relationship was as step-father. I double-checked the fact George Washington had no legitimate, biological children. If mistaken, I welcome correction.

The death of George's "son" is mentioned, but not the son's apparent reluctance to serve in the War prior to the Siege of Yorktown (during which his contributions were undoubtedly minimal). That the son was something of a shirker and johnny-come-lately makes it hard to accept George was grief-stricken at his death as the series depicts.

Better than the previous television attempt, but undoubtedly inferior to the hallmark of American Revolution documentaries we await, the series is still worthy of your time.

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Informative

6/10
Author: drjgardner from California
3 July 2016

"The Revolution" is a 13 part series on the American Revolutionary War, with a focus on George Washington (which seems natural) but which also covers the activities of Benjamin Franklin, and Benedict Arnold as well as John Paul Jones, John Adams, the war with the Indians, etc. It is mostly a series about the War per se with very little about the politics, economics, or domestic life.

The episodes stick to the facts with few attempts to embellish. The maps and expert interviews are all adequate, although there is a tendency to overuse some of the footage and also to spend a little too much time summarizing. The reenactments are excellent for a docudrama

Personally I preferred the series "Sons of Liberty" (2015) as this series gave some fresh perspectives on the war. Other important TV series include "The Adams Chronicles" (1976), "Washington's Spies" (2014), and Ben Franklin (1974). But there is far too little about the American Revolution so this is a welcome addition.

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When 13 colonies become an independent nation

7/10
Author: dy158 from Singapore
6 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With the role the United States plays in the world, sometimes it is hard to imagine that there was a time when it did not held sway. But what makes it eventually the country it is to be? The 13-episode series delves into the events leading up to the eventual eight-year American Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1783, the major moments which took place in the war itself and the people at the heart of it, the chaos the newly-created country found itself in before George Washington took his oath of office.

At the beginning, there were actually 13 different colonies but they were administered from London and a monarch in King George III. It was in one of the major cities in the colonies in Boston where there were disagreements over how people living in the colonies were subjected to taxes. For Bostonians who were fed up with the taxes levied from across the Atlantic in London where the straw which broke the camel's back came how the British would come to tax something they have come to like in tea, there was already a group of intellectuals who had came together to form the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The people who would come to be part of the Continental Congress would be names long remembered in history like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin (who came in much later), John Hancock, and a certain George Washington. But before how history would come to remember these men, such a gathering was already considered illegal.

Still, it was at the Continental Congress where the very notion that everyone who were there were all Americans and not defined by where they came from before being in Philadelphia. There were the differences from the representatives from the 13 colonies on how they view the control the British has over their lands, but they all had a common goal in wanting London to grant them more autonomy. Independence from the United Kingdom was far from their minds. It only started to come to a head when what was happening in the 13 colonies reached London and troops were sent in to restore order and quash the rebellion. It would be the state of Massachusetts which took centre stage in the first episode. While Boston was where the revolt over the taxation of tea happened with the Boston Tea Party movement, it was in another town in Massachusetts in Lexington where the famous phrase of the 'shot heard around the world' happened. While nobody knew who fired the first shot which would come to launch the American Revolutionary War, there was no turning back in what began as skirmishes over taxes and the famous concept of 'no taxation without representation'.

But even as the war started, someone was needed to command the rag-tag group of volunteer soldiers. That was when the Continental Congress decided that the Virginian farm owner George Washington do the job. It would not be just Washington whose background story would be featured in the 13-episode series, the personal stories of Adams, Jefferson and Franklin were also featured at one point or another. Then there were also those who would come to be remembered for various reasons on the battlefield like Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold. Not only that, there is also the story of someone who despite never being involved on the battlefield, would come to inspire those fighting for the very cause of independence, Thomas Paine and his book 'Common Sense'.

Then there is the role of France in the United States's fight for independence from the British. France was still a monarchy when Benjamin Franklin sought the support of King Louis XVI in military and naval support as the Continental Army was short on supplies. From what was only between the Americans and the British, the French involvement with the arrival of Marquis de Lafayette on the same side as the Continental Army made it a world war. The series would come to explore in one of the later episodes of how the French would come to get involved, and how it felt after the war ended after the battle at Yorktown.

While there is no doubt of how people like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson would come to be remembered, it is the case of Benedict Arnold which can be a contentious one as how contemporary history remembered his role in selling out West Point to the British army. The series explore when it comes to his motivation for doing so. Regardless what, what Arnold did would come to set the precedent of how the country sees those it consider selling out to its enemies. It is up to the viewer to decide whether deep down, Arnold was either a patriot or a traitor, or both at the same time.

There were times watching the series, it does make one wonder if not for the various steps George Washington had taken on the battle front and how Benjamin Franklin would play his part even if he had never donned a military uniform, what would have happened to the 13 colonies. Even after Yorktown, there was also the arduous process of how the country should be run given of the various needs and demands from the 13 different states from up north in New York to down south in Florida.

Despite how one views the country we all know as the United States of America and even getting past the nationalistic and patriotic undertones of the analysts who provided commentary to the events of the time which the series also looked into the roles of the African-Americans and the American Indians in the American Revolutionary War, it is a reminder of how the story of the United States of America was actually also a story of David defeating Goliath, where the latter was referring to the United Kingdom which was the undisputed superpower in its time.

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4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A four hour mini series jam packed into 10 hours

4/10
Author: robertfranz from United States
19 June 2012

A workmanlike treatment of the colonial war against England.

A nod is given to home grown terrorist groups such as the Sons of Liberty, where we see both their instigation of the incident in Boston Common, and their cynical manipulation to further their tax rebellion.

Footage is recycled a little to obviously.

One scene portraying Washington in a state of annoyance was used no less than three times in unrelated segments.

Episode 12 has no reason to exist, it's just a recap of the entire series, done in annoying and pointless flashbacks.

The writing is pretty bad in places. If you turn subtitles on, the bad textual choices are obvious enough to pause it ans ask yourself did-they-really-just-say-that?

It's a shame that they were able to get the facts basically correct, but could not make an entertaining story out of events so fraught with intrigue and drama.

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