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James Carroll Jordan
I first saw this mini-series while in 5th grade history class as part of our studies on the Civil War, and I thought it was excellent. Many years later, I watched it again after finding a copy of the unabridged version (all 6+ hours of it!). I wasn't sure how it would stand the test of time (both as a 16 year old production and my own view of it, being 16 years older now) and braced myself for disappointment; however, I was very pleasantly surprised. The movie is as well done as I remembered it.
It's an engrossing movie that gives an honest, frank look at the inherent moral ambiguity of war, as well as the additional consequences of the Civil War, where "brother fought brother". Although the movie certainly takes dramatic license (the main character, a young Southerner who relocates to the north after becoming disillusioned with the cruel treatment of slaves, ends up stumbling across his staunchly pro-Confederate siblings as if they're all wandering around in the same town instead of an entire country!), you can see that the film makers took great pains to portray as many perspectives as possible, to show that each and every person involved in the war was human, with their own thoughts and feelings. I'm certainly no Civil War expert, but I thought it was a very balanced portrait. What's more amazing is that the mini rarely drags despite sometimes taking a leisurely pace during its 6 hour run-time. Although we all know how the movie with ultimately end, it keeps you interested in the lives of all the characters it introduces. I thought Stacy Keach did a particularly good job despite a few hammy lines. This mini-series should definitely be on any must-see list of war films.
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