Utterly superb dramatization of the turning point battle of the Civil War. A clash so enormous in scale that whoever won, was destined to win the war. Brilliantly directed and screenwritten with top notch moving performances by all. Almost makes you understand why so many people are into those reenactment things.
I think to fully appreciate the more intelligent war films, you almost have to know the battle in detail going in. The movie uses dialogue to try and explain whats happening, but its extremely hard to conceptualize without the aid of graphics. I'm not saying you won't enjoy this film without a firm grasp of the battle details, only that you will enjoy it much more if you are able to do a little reading beforehand. Either way, see it. I am truly amazed by the depth of feeling all these guys were able to put into this project. Daniels and Berenger, in particular, give Oscar caliber performances. A total home run.
This is one of my favorite movies, and the comments of fans on this site notwithstanding, I think it was underrated. From the first time I saw it, it exemplified a personal theory that women (until very recently) rarely see men at their very finest, and that is unfortunately often (obviously not always)in battle. The courage, commitment and humanity that this movie portrays, on both sides of the conflict, moves me to tears every time, and the humanity is key. I don't know enough about the battle to point out any glaring historical inaccuracies, but the acting was exemplary across the board, with Jeff Daniels outstanding. The battle at Little Round Top is one of the finest movie scenes I've witnessed. I particularly like the expressions of respect and awe on the faces of Chamberlin's men when he tells them to "fix bayonets". What's striking is that there was no "good" choice; there was a clear and compelling objective in a much bigger picture, and this schoolteacher rose to the challenge, and his men went with him. This movie conveys a lot-through the long philosophical discourses and the action-about how people behave when they are inextricably joined with other people, for a cause that they don't fully understand, charged with a responsibility that no individual should bear, and with the desire mainly to return to the way things were before. It conveys a lot about true leadership and sacrifice. It conveys that individual choices and motivations always impact others, sometimes on huge scales. Guys, I don't know if you can convince your wives/girlfriends to cuddle up with this film, but I would make the attempt; there are obviously very ugly things that people did to each other in this and any conflict, but if I ever got a sense of the nobility of men and their push in this world, it was from this film.
I've been reading all the other comments pro & con with great interest, and I just have to add my voice to the "pro" side for this ambitious and stirring epic. Gettysburg is indeed one of my "all time top 10" movies. I was especially curious to see it on initial theatrical release because of the casting of Martin Sheen as Lee; were I to cast a civil war movie, the name Martin Sheen would NEVER have entered my mind as an appropriate performer for this make-or-break role. To my astonishment, Sheen was MAGNIFICENT in his portrayal of Lee; in appearance, demeanor, and aura of command, Sheen COMPLETELY sold me. A stunning performance from an unexpected casting choice. I agree that "Gods & Generals" would have benefited from Sheen's re-casting, though Duvall did his best with the more limited part he was given.
Yeah, I agree that the script tended to a lot of bloviation and speechifying by the principals. I do think we need to make allowance for the fact that in this pre-technological 19th century era portrayed, people DID communicate in ways that seem artificial and awkward by our standards. This was a time when oratory, whether in churches, politics, or general discourse, was valued both as communication and entertainment. So even if the dialogue got a bit overblown, I was more than willing to cut the production some slack.
The beards were a problem for me also, especially poor Tom Berenger's. Still, he (like ALL the lead actors) transcended the limitations and delivered what resonated for me as a credible interpretation of the time and situation.
MANY details of the movie can be nit-picked, and of course, those determined to hate "Gettysburg" can always find a reason, rational or not. I was BLOWN AWAY by the quality and passion of this movie from my first theatrical viewing and it was one of the very first DVD's I purchased. After multiple viewings (all 4 hours) I'm still impressed and grateful that Ted Turner had the desire and ambition to tackle such a BIG project that would be sniped at from all corners for eternity. My goodwill extends to the much weaker (but still defensible) "Gods and Generals"; if they go ahead and produce "The Last Full Measure," I promise I'll be first in line at the movie theater AND pre-order the DVD!
GETTYSBURG, based on Michael Shaara's bestseller, "The Killer Angels", is a truly remarkable film, in it's clear, if long, presentation of the Civil War's bloodiest, best-known, yet least understood battle, in it's 'humanizing' of the almost legendary characters of the period, and, most amazingly, for being filmed at the actual locations where the actions took place, in Gettysburg, itself. From Little Round Top to Seminary Ridge, you see the events where they actually occurred, 140 years ago. It is a singular achievement, and Ted Turner deserves credit for making it happen.
Two characters dominate the film; Jeff Daniels, in one of his finest performances, is a likable, totally believable Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the Maine ex-schoolteacher who would win the Congressional Medal of Honor; and Tom Berenger, sporting a huge, bushy beard, is a sympathetic 'voice of reason' as Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, successor to "Stonewall" Jackson as Robert E. Lee's field commander. Chamberlain and Longstreet provide the film it's focus, as honorable men attempting to fulfill their duty, while the carnage builds around each of them.
Other memorable performances include Sam Elliott, in a brief but memorable cameo as Brig. Gen. John Buford, the battle-hardened cavalry commander who initiates the battle after guessing the Confederates' objectives at Gettysburg; Richard Jordan, in one of his last appearances before his untimely death, as Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead, facing his best friend in battle; Kevin Conway, as Chamberlain's gruff but likable Irish First Sergeant, Sgt. 'Buster' Kilrain; C. Thomas Howell as Lt. Thomas D. Chamberlain, Joshua's brother, who creates a sense of familial concern for Daniels; and Stephen Lang (who would go on to play Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson in GODS AND GENERALS), as an ever-confident, ebullient Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett.
In the pivotal role of Robert E. Lee, Martin Sheen is less effective, lacking Lee's well-documented charisma, and substituting constant world-weary gazes for characterization. Robert Duvall, who assumed the role in GODS AND GENERALS, would be far more credible as Lee.
The sheer numbers of the battle are staggering; over 150,000 combatants, with 53,000 dead, more in a single three-day engagement than were lost during the entire war in Vietnam. The armies of actors, extras, and recreators could not nearly match those numbers, yet the film effectively conveys the immensity of the conflict. The tactical errors (Lee's decision, on the third day of battle, to order Pickett's suicidal charge into the Union guns; Meade's decision, drawing the fury of President Lincoln, to allow the Southern survivors to return home without further slaughter, while a humane gesture, probably lengthening the war) are presented within the context of of the overall conflict, providing the viewer with justification for their decisions.
Director Ronald F. Maxwell presents a complex, fascinating tapestry in GETTYSBURG, and it is not a film you will soon forget!
This is undoubtedly my favorite movie of all time. Martin Sheen and Jeff Daniels give, in my opinion, the greatest performances of their careers. The music and cinematography is also excellent.
I have heard of complaints that this movie is too long. But to fully understand the story, it takes this much footage to make the movie complete.
I think that Ronald F. Maxwell did an excellent job in taking "The Killer Angels" (the book that the movie is based on) and turning it into a movie. The trilogy of novels surrounding this story i.e. "Gods and Generals", "The Killer Angels", and "The Full Measure" are excellent reads for any war or history buff and I would strongly recommend them.
The battle scenes are also very realistic. This movie was a dream for every civil war reenactor alive. Thousands came from across the country to be in this movie. They were not paid with money, but paid with the chance to reenact their passion for history on the same fields where their ancestors spilled there blood over 100 years ago. That is a feat in itself.
In conclusion, this movie is a 10. It makes me cry every time I watch it. The acting, cinematography, and music, make history come to life. Go and see it! Can't wait till "Gods and Generals" comes out!
A film that runs longer than 'Lawrence of Arabia' and only covers three days of action sounds a long haul but it is not. As someone who is both British and interested rather than an expert on the Civil War I found 'Gettysburg' very satisfying. The prologue makes the objectives of the two armies clear and the 'updates' in the form of dialogue between the commanders mean the viewer doesn't lose sight of the course of events. The battle scenes capture the "terrible beauty" of combat, conveying terror, claustrophobia and violence without being too horrific.
More important, the film makes the most of the remarkably rich characters who took part. My only hope is that Col. Chamberlain was as intelligent, humane and courageous in life as Jeff Daniels's performance. This is just one example, and there are many men one would like to know more about as a result of seeing this.
The one question I was left with came from Martin Sheen's portrayal of Lee. I know Lee had been unwell before the battle but Martin Sheen seems strangely remote from events, with a glazed look in his eye and high-pitched 'other worldly' voice. Is this fair and accurate? At least Lee has the moral courage to say "It's all my fault" when he sees the result of Pickett's Charge. I don't remember Douglas Haig saying that after the first day on the Somme in 1916.
Wonderful depiction of the events leading to a pivotal battle of the Civil War, the battle of Gettysburg, with a focus on 3 key individuals: Confederate General Robert E. Lee (played brilliantly by Martin Sheen), Lee's second, Lt. General James Longstreet (Tom Berenger), and Union Col Joshua Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels).
Truly classic storytelling beautifully presented. Each key event is intelligently and gently depicted leaving little of the battles, the personalities, and the actions to be misunderstood. I felt much closer to the unfortunate events that were our Civil War than I ever imagined. I don't consider myself ignorant as a rule, but to tell the truth I never envisioned that the battles were basically fought hand-to-hand, face-to-face, long lines of fighting men falling, almost randomly, on both sides.
This movie, along with John Frankenheimer's "Andersonville" jump-started a serious interest for me in these historical docudramas, and the Civil War in particular. Thank you Mr. Frankenheimer, and Mr. Ronald Maxwell (director of "Gettysburg").
All I hear is people griping about how long this film is. That's not the point. The point is it represents what is considered by historians to be the most important battle of the American Civil War.
I will admit that the length of the film kinda takes away from it, but it is nonetheless good.
Save a few historical gaffes (eg. Chamberlain and the 20th Maine at Picket's Charge - in reality, they were being held in reserve near the Round Tops with the rest of the V Corps), this film is very realistic, using thousands of professional re-enactors to fight the battle scenes, which adds to it.
Many battles and side notes were left out (eg. Vincent was mortally wounded on Little Round Top; or did they mention this, I don't remember), but that is okay, given the film focuses on Joshua L. Chamberlain and the 20th Maine, who saved the day at Little Round Top on July 2.
Skirmishes at the Herr Tavern, McPherson's Hill, Little Round Top, and Picket's Charge were all the fighting I remember. But, again, this doesn't really take anything away.
The sweep and grandeur is helped by the superb cinematography (by Kees Van Oostrum) and great acting on the part of Tom Berenger (Longstreet), Martin Sheen (Lee), Jeff Daniels (Chamberlain), C. Thomas Howell (Tom Chamberlain), Sam Elliot (Buford), and the rest of the superb cast. A standout is the late Richard Jordan as Lewis Armistead, the brigade commander in Picket's division who was killed leading his troops "over the top" against Union artillery.
The battle scenes are excellent; Picket's Charge, in real time, is superb, but the furious battle for Little Round Top is one of the most desperate battle scenes ever filmed. You can feel the fear and tension of the 20th Maine as the 44th Alabama (I believe this is correct) charges up the hill again and again. When Chamberlain and his men finally sweep their opponents off the hill?
I think that it may have been good to portray the charging Confederates as well, since they had many interesting stories among them (e.g., the commander of the 44th, William Oates, had a brother, John, who had been ill with a fever and refused to stay behind, and was mortally wounded in the carnage), and the heroics of such people as Vincent himself, and Patrick O'Rourke (who led his New York regiment in a counterattack that saved Vincent's right flank and was killed in the charge) are neglected, but I'm not complaining.
Despite the length and a few overdramatic speeches, this is a great movie.
This movie picks up steam as it goes along - leading to its wrenching end, as did the battle.
The performance of Richard Jordan as Lo Armistead must be singled out for praise - his anguish was very moving. I'd loved the actor in The Friends of Eddie Coyle and what a job he does. (It helps that he's given the best lines in the movie). Martin Sheen as Robt. E. Lee is not the first name that would come to mind - but I think he gave a fine performance - his accent was entrancing. Sam Elliott is perfectly chosen as (and wonderfully played) the western General John Buford. I also think Jeff Daniels was absolutely wonderful - conveying so well the different manner of someone who until a year before, had been a civilian professor, not a colonel. Unfortunately although I'm generally a fan of Tom Berenger, I wasn't particularly moved by any scene he was in - he kind of walks through it.
The movie is written so well - and its pace just fine. There are so many interesting scenes, touching on many different aspects of life and war - from the nature of man and race to the paradox of a general loving his army yet having to sacrifice it. Jordan brought home so well the closeness of the senior officers to those on the other side.
I loved how well they showed the varied purposes for fighting of the different armies, and the occasional reference to a perceived resentment by the Union soldiers over what they saw as Confederate pretensions to higher social class. ("They're so arrogant", etc.).
The music is first rate - and definitely enhances the drama. The depiction seems quite authentic.
Some niggling criticisms: aside from the map at the start of the movie, there is none. Maps would definitely have helped to undeerstand the overall picture. People commonly refer to directions (from the norht, from the west, etc.) or "we must flank them to the right" and it's hard to understand if you haven't read about the battle.
The scene with the runaway slave is too abbreviated from the book - it doesn't have much impact in the movie.
Kevin Conway's dialogue and accent was a bit over the top, and the English military attache was rather clicheed.
For all that General Hancock is referenced, we see very little of him.
We see the diatribe by General Trimble against General Ewell - but without seeing anything of that battle (or Ewell ever), it just hangs there - rather than being part of any continuous story. (In the book, Ewell's and Early's conduct is more discussed - including a wonderful scene by the two with Lee). If they weren't going to discuss that side of the battle, they should have left Trimble's (well-played) trembling anger out of the story - it doesn't belong in this movie.
Gen. Longstreet is the star of the book and movie - yet I never sensed from Berenger the great brooding quality (and he wasn't given any reference to the fact that his thre children had just died) that he has throughout the battle - according to the book. Similarly, Gen. Lee's health (his heart and headaches, etc.) is a constant factor - not shown in the movie.
Despite the criticisms, this is a wonderfully done movie - from a Pulitzer Prize winning book. It's long - but quite clear, and very deeply moving. I defy anyone to see the last 1/2 hour and not have tears in their eyes. I'd very strongly recommend this.
Its over four hours long,but doesn't feel it. Any while its not gory you do get a sense of the hell of war.
What can I say that hasn't been said already?
The film works mostly because at its center its the story of Jeff Daniel's Joshua Chamberlain, a well educated man who goes off to do his duty even though he knows he may end up dead. Daniel's gives a performance that should have been noticed by the Oscars but wasn't. Its through Daniel's interaction with all the other characters that we come to understand what the war was about.
Even if the odd facial hair makes you crazy, its a great film. I can't recommend this film enough.
With a few notable exceptions Schindler's List, Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan and Glory, history based movies usually die quick and quiet in the movie theater (The Messenger, Ride with the Devil, Cobb) History flicks cost a bundle to make with the costumes and the challenge of finding a place to shoot that's nowhere near highways, bridges, and cities, and they don't always appeal to mass audiences.
So it's not that often that really good historical film comes around. As a result, it's good not to be too fussy when one does. Both Gettysburg and the Killer Angels, the book it was based on, were stuffed with historical inaccuracies, the grossest of all being the presence of the 20th Maine regiment anywhere near Pickett's charge (this happens in both the movie and the book).
For all the lengthy soliloquies, historical misses, whitewashed violence, and the fact that only about 30% of the battle of Gettysburg is shown on film, Gettysburg remains as the best effort to capture the sprawling battle of July 1863 on film. Where the movie lacks in realism, it makes up for it's dialogue, and in the scope of the battle scenes, which are on a scale so grand, that the bloodless body count and the inaccurate tactics can be forgiven. The sheer numbers of soldiers taking part in Pickett's charge was breathtaking. Kudos to the reenactors.
Martin Sheen and Tom Beringer were they're usual excellent selves as Lee and Longstreet and for me, their ongoing debate of the strategy of Gettysburg helped make the movie. Other highlights include the disenchantment of Union soldiers at this stage of the Civil War, and the personal trauma Richard Jordan's Lewis Armistead felt at having to fight his friend Winfield Hancock not only in the same war, but in the same sector of the same battle of that war.
Much of Gettysburg has to be viewed with a grain of salt, but until a Stephen Speilberg or other directing genius with a knack for war footage comes along, it's one of the best we have. And it's pretty good.
I know the Civil War is a very 'american' thing, so i hope folks won't mind me poking my British nose onto the board. I got Gettysburg from Blockbuster on 2 video tapes & watched it in 1 go, though I gather it was made for tv in 2 instalments. Utterly watchable and, yes, very moving, especially when you consider it was actually filmed on the very ground where so many brave men fought more than 140 years ago. Just imagine what those soldiers would've made of it? I wonder if they realised their struggle would become part of history? From what I know of the Civil War the battle and command decisions were faithfully re-created with none of the banal sub-plots, ridiculous "love interests" and fictionalised scenes so beloved of Hollywood. It was also wonderful to see the massed infantry composed of real human beings without a hint of CGI. Pickett's Charge was incredibly poignant, especially as 'we' know what the outcome will be. I noted there isn't a single actress in the film. Apologies to all ladies out there, but that's the way it really was. ALL the actors gave fine performances; particularly the always great Tom Berenger as General Longstreet. I could feel the strain of 'command' every time he was on screen. I've always felt Robert E Lee was the finest general the USA ever produced. Such a tragic irony he ended up fighting against it. By the way, Lee was originally offered command of the Union army but declined out of loyalty to his beloved Virginia. That's the way many americans felt back then. They saw their nationality as their State. Martin Sheen gave a 1st class performance, though I personally wish the role had gone to a taller and (sorry Martin) more "distinguised" actor. Lee was an intellectual and a gentleman. His troops followed him from respect and love, whereas Grant's soldiers were motivated by respect and fear. A subtle difference, but important. There are faults with this film. Firstly I was slightly irritated it keeps alive the myth that the Civil War was fought to free the slaves. A nice idea, but un-true. Slavery was an obscenity, but that wasn't why the war was fought. It was fought to either preserve or end the Union, depending on which side a person was. By the way, Abraham Lincoln & US Grant both came from slave-owning families! Another fault with this film is the almost complete abscence of blood, 'gore' and real suffering. All the hundreds of extras look remarkably fit and healthy. In actual fact both sides (but particularly the Confederacy) suffered appaling squalor, hunger, disease and misery. There were no medics back then, no morphine, no helicopter casevacs, just the slim chance of an ill-trained & probably drunk "surgeon" turning up with a dirty saw and a bottle of whisky for anaesthetic. Vast numbers of injured men died from infected wounds, or were simply left where they fell. I wished the film had shown a bit more of the 'down side' to war. And then there were the beards. Oh God. Anyone who's seen the "women at the stoning" in Monty Python's Life of Brian will know what I mean. Most high scholl drama prop boxes contain more convincing false beards than the ridiculous items Berenger & Sheen were wearing. Martin Sheen looked like a mall Santa & Tom Berenger's was just surreal. Anyway. The strengths of this film far outweigh its faults. I remember seeing a US Army newsreel shot in the 1930s which filmed the Civil War 75th anniversary reunion. A small number of very elderly veterans, from both sides, gathered in friendship. It's such a shame so many fine men died in this dreadful conflict.
What a film! This one grabs you right from the start and keeps you. And it needs to-it's a long film. The film is fairly accurate, historically, and was shot partially on location. The performances of Martin Sheen as General Robert E. Lee and Tom Berenger as General James Longstreet are nothing to get excited about, especially during one scene where both of them deliver their lines very woodenly. Nearly everyone else in the film is great! The most galvanizing performance is that of Jeff Daniels as Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. I'd have followed him into hell, which his men did. The battle scenes in this film are truly epic in size and the cinematography is brilliantly executed. When all those dozens of Confederate cannon fire one by one, it made me feel as if those cannonballs were headed for me. The soundtrack is spectacular, particularly if you have DTS 5.1! I gave it a 9 only because I felt that Sheen & Berenger could have done a little better. But it is truly one of the great war films of all time.
Warning: Somewhat of a spoiler on historical points.
As a civil war buff, I can tell you that this is the best movie ever made of the civil war, perhaps the best war movie of all time, and possibly one of the best movies of all time. I find it enjoyable to rewatch frequently.
The movie is surprisingly, historically accurate. I have read over two hundred books on the civil war and I can tell you with at least a little authority, that the three main characters in the movie deserve their treatment.
The first character is Tom Berenger giving a superb portrayal of Lieutenant General James (Pete) Longstreet, a Confederate corps commander. For the benefit of those who are not that familiar with civil war history, the monumental battle of Gettysburg occurred just past the halfway point of the war. Significantly, it occurred after the death of CSA Lieutenant General Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson. Longstreet graduated to General Lee's most trusted lieutenant. The movie accurately portrays the tug of wills between Longstreet and Lee. It is historical fact that Longstreet argued against invasion of the North, agreeing to it only after getting some vague assurance from Lee that the battle would be defensively fought. It is fact that Longstreet argued for an attack around the Union's left flank (if there was to be an attack at all). Finally, it is undeniable fact that Longstreet argued with Lee so vehemently against the final failed attack that he later wrote that he thought he had stepped over the military line and would be relieved of command. I don't see how Berenger could have done a better job and I am still upset that he received no Academy Award recognition. I would imagine that Americans from the South are a little uncomfortable about Longstreet being right and the supposedly lovable Lee being wrong. But, history is history. I should mention that Longstreet is my favorite Confederate Officer.
Martin Sheen does only a fairish job of portraying General Robert E. Lee. He seems to have only one facial expression, that of pain and worry. Perhaps that is understandable considering that Gettysburg was such a Confederate disaster, but I believe it was overdone. What I do find interesting is that historians are coming more and more to the realization that Lee was not such a great general and perhaps not even a very good one. Looking at this movie unbiasedly, you can't help but get that impression yourself.
Jeff Daniels, playing the character of Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, does a job that is every bit as good as Berenger's portrayal of Longstreet. Chamberlain was very much the Union hero as portrayed in this movie, so Northern Americans may especially like this movie. Chamberlain did in fact win the Congressional Medal of Honor for his performance during the Battle of Gettysburg. A non-regular military man, a non West Point graduate, Chamberlain went on to great glory even after Gettysburg. Promoted all the way up to Major (two-star) General, Chamberlain was more than with Grant at the final surrender of Lee at Appomattox Court House, as pointed out by another reviewer. He was given the singular honor of officially receiving the surrender and parole of Confederate troops three days after Lee's negotiated surrender, and well after Lieutenant General Grant had left for Washington. He also won recognition for his dramatic salute to the defeated Confederate soldiers that both Union and Confederate people of the time appreciated.
The movie is beautifully choreographed with thousands of extras, many, most, or perhaps even all being professional re-enactors. It gave the movie a realism lacking in many other war movies. The pathos of some of the Officers was palpable and made one sad whether of Union or Confederate sympathy. The musical score was memorable. I give it a ten out of ten and I, for one, enjoyed the length of the movie which is admittedly long at just over four hours.
Rent this movie. You will learn a great deal of American history, and have a good time doing so.
I saw this movie years ago on TNT and I thought very well of it. I thought it to be a bit long but other than that it was a very good movie with an excellent cast.
After visiting the actual battlefield in early June (I suggest to you anyone that has a chance to do so, it is a great experience), my interest was renewed. Sitting on top of the little round top and looking down and around the hill I could envision the 20th Maine. Looking over the grounds where Pickett's Charge took place I could hear the canon's thunder and the bullets flying by.
This movie captures the essence of the battle and it has to be long in order to do so. The torment of the Generals was more than apparent throughout the movie. The emotions run deep and the actors did a very good job of conveying them. The soundtrack complemented the movie a 100% and gave the right accents at the right moments. The cinematography was awesome and accurate, since a lot was filmed on location. The acting is great and the reenactors should also be praised for their participation.
If you watch this movie and criticize its historical inaccuracies you will miss the point. It does the best job it can, to give you the feel and overview of the entire battle.
You will be crying at some point, for all the men lost in vain in the civil war. The most terrible kind of war in which brothers, relatives or friends face each other with the intend to kill each other. You will also realize the heavy burden of the officers leading their men to a battle where their death is most surely waiting.
Above all, the film will tell us how insane we are as a human race. We organize ourselves and develop weapons in order to mass destruct each other. Over 50000 men died in three days, how many mothers, wives and families were destroyed as a consequence is something for all of us to think about. One thing is certain, it is a very high price to pay for any cause no matter how `sacred' or `right' this cause may be.
Look at me I am mumbling on with my emotions and thoughts that have emanated from the movie. Watch the movie, for all its shortcomings; it is still right up there with Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan.
At four hours-plus, this is one of the longest movies I own but is well-made and worth owning, and I'm not a "Civil War buff," either. I would probably appreciate this movie even more if I did know more about that horrible conflict. Being familiar with all the small towns surrounding Gettsyburg wouldn't hurt.
The movie is well-acted, nicely filmed and has some memorable scenes. My only complaints are that some of the action scenes go on too long and I didn't appreciate the plug for Darwin's evolutionary theories, which had no place in this film. However, this is a Turner Pictures film and the "Turner" is outspoken atheist Ted Turner, it's no surprise we get this thrown in our faces.
Otherwise, they stuck to the war story. It was interesting how they portrayed Robert E. Lee. They make him look a little stupid in his strategy but also gave him a compassionate look, and you couldn't help but feel sorry for the man. Actually, all the officers on both sides were portrayed fairly as nothing but good and brave men.
Jeff Daniels, as Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, had the best role and came off looking the best. It may be Daniels' best work ever, too. Martin Sheen was outstanding as Lee. Kudos to Tom Berenger (Lt. Gen. James Longstreet) and Richard Jordan (Brig. Gen. Lewis Armistead) for their performances, too.
It's a quality show, filmed on the Gettysburg sites, too. Although there are a few long fight scenes, this is not a bloody film. Language-wise, this probably holds the record for the most usage of the word "damn" but that's it, profanity-wise.
I wouldn't let the length of this movie prohibit you from watching it. You can always break it up into segments over a couple of days.
A very interesting take on the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, which is unfortunately marred by its excessive length (well over four hours), which could easily have been cut by at least an hour if unnecessary marching scenes were cut out. (I timed one point in the movie when a full six minutes went by showing nothing but troops marching. This was absolutely tedious!)
There isn't much "drama" involved in this. How can there be? Everyone knows the Battle of Gettysburg, we all know that the North won, and serious students of the Civil War know most of the military manoeuvres that were used, as well as the fates of the major combatants. So, it was up to the director (Ronald F. Maxwell) and the various actors to give us something of a unique spin to hold our attention through the long story. For the most part, they were successful.
I was quite intrigued by Martin Sheen's portrayal of General Robert E. Lee. Lee comes across almost in a mystical way - a man of vision and courage, and yet also very human. The debates between Lee and General James Longstreet (played by Tom Berenger) over strategy were realistic, and the fact that Longstreet was proved for the most part to be right demonstrate the fact that Lee - while a great General - was subject to human failings as well. Sheen portrays a Lee who is coming to terms with his hero status among his troops, but also shows him subtly uncomfortable with it.
Also interesting was the constant hearkening back to the pre-war relationship between Union general Winfield Hancock (Brian Mallon) and Confederate General Lewis Armistead (Richard Jordan). Good friends before the war (almost brothers, as both describe the relationship) they now find themselves on opposite sides of this great battle, wanting to see each other because they are friends and yet not wanting to see each other as enemies. Tears well up in both as they speak to fellow officers about the relationship. A believable portrayal of how many Americans must have felt in this conflict which divided friends and families.
Most interesting of all, though, was the portrayal of General Joshua Chamberlain (by Jeff Daniels), the colonel of the 20th Maine Infantry. I was only vaguely familiar with Chamberlain when I first saw this movie, and was motivated by it to become more familiar with a truly fascinating individual. Hardly a classic soldier (he was a university professor of English and Religion back in Maine) Chamberlain displays a solid grasp of tactics, and comes across as the great Northern hero in this account of Gettysburg.
So, there are a lot of good things in this movie. Don't let the length of over four hours put you off. Although there are a few tedious scenes (such as the marching scene I described earlier) it's worth hanging in through them to get a very realistic and largely historically accurate picture of perhaps the greatest battle of the US Civil War.
I just want to respond to the criticism of this movie's use of Civil War reenactors as extras. Yes, the average reenactor is a heck of lot older and fatter than was the average Civil War soldier. Reenactors are great at dressing as Civil War soldiers, but most of them don't LOOK anything like Civil War soldiers, who were very young men reduced to sinew and bone from physical exertion and poor diet. Also, reenactors are not professional actors or stunt men which is very evident in this movie. (In some scenes you can actually see some of them staring into the camera while everyone else is looking off in another direction. Also, their embarrassing attempts to recreate hand-to-hand combat during the finale of Pickett's Charge are just pathetic to watch. Not to mention the melodramatic "deaths" and the guys grinning like Cheshire Cats while they're supposed to be acting as in fear of their lives.)
However, there is NO way "Gettysburg" could have been made without reenactors. In order to give the movie's battle scenes an "epic" look, it needed several thousand extras and this film didn't have anyway near the budget to afford professional extras or travel overseas to rent-out a small European army as Hollywood films used do to. Heck, the production company couldn't even afford a decent make-up department (which is obvious from those awful, fake looking beards) let alone hire hundreds of professional extras, costume them, and train them. Reenactors, despite their faults, made this movie possible by working for free and by bringing their own uniforms, equipment, knowledge of Civil War tactics, and enthusiasm for this project. It was either use the services of reenactors or no movie about the battle of Gettysburg was going to be made.
While "Gettysburg" could not have been made without reenactors, I do feel director Ronald Maxwell could have done a better job of filming around some of the more ridiculous looking ones. Instead, he almost seems to revel in showing off the fattest and oldest of the bunch- the first Confederate soldier with a speaking part is a man over 60 yrs old who had to be at least 300lbs! Now how can anyone believe that this man marched 20 miles a day in June heat while carrying a 50lb pack? Supposedly, Maxwell has learned from his mistakes. While he is justifiably proud of "Gettysburg," he was not deaf to the guffaws at all those chubby Rebs and geriatric Yanks. Thus, for the upcoming "Gods and Generals" his casting directors were ordered to be much choosier in deciding which reenactors will be in that movie. (In other words, they were ordered to cull out the fatbodies and oldsters.)
Despite being a big fan of this movie, I can recognize the weaknesses of using reenactors as extras in a period war film. However, anyone who applauds the fact that "Gettysburg" was ever made must also commend the dedication of those reenactors who made its creation possible.
Gettysburg is the best civil war movie I have ever had the privilege of watching. Martin Sheen would not have been my choice as General Robert E Lee but very quickly into the movie I found myself truly believing he was the great general himself. Jeff Daniels as General Chamberlain was simply amazing in his similarity to the real person in looks and his performance brought me to tears. Once I got past the awful beard of Tom Berenger who was playing General Longstreet, I was delighted at his performance which to me was an academy award worthy performance. Ronald Maxwell is my hero for bringing this wonderful story to life and to all the extras that were needed to make this movie a complete success my hat is off to you. If you can see this movie without immediately planning a trip the the beautiful town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, I will be very surprised. It is my favorite movie of all time.
This movie was excellent. I am amazed at all the bad reviews on it here. The writing was great, the acting superb, and 90% historically accurate. Yes it's long? So what? I admit some scenes were a bit drawn out, but so were the yoda scenes in star wars, but do people hate star wars because there are a few less than exciting scenes in the movie? No!!!!!!! We watch them once to get their jist and then fast-forward them. The casting and acting were great. "Too many overhead shots on picket's charge"? They were trying to give people an idea of just how many people were involved in this battle, you can say 15, 000 but when you see it, it amazes you that they could all do this in such uniformity. The special effects were descent. I hate movies with so much OBVIOUSLY computer-generated graphics, some is ok, but when half the movie is computers, it takes away from it. The score was EXCELLENT. This is one of my all time favorite movies.
Watching "Gettysburg", you will know everything about the battle. Where the armies marched, who attacked, where the fighting took place, etc. Facts are very precise. You will also find out how the chain of command works, from the highest general to the men fighting of the front row. Anybody interested in military history has plenty to learn and won't feel the 4 hours of the movie. One of the good points of the screenplay is that it keeps coming on the discussions between general Lee and lieutenant general Longstreet : what those two officers decided is indeed a main point. Those who are not fond of strategy will perhaps appreciate very spectacular combat scenes, like the assault on Little Round Top or the charge of the Pickett division. They may also like the performances of the actors. Martin Sheen, Tom Berenger, Sam Elliott, Jeff Daniels... All are very believable Civil War officers. They don't just act, they also managed to have a physical aspect close to the historical characters. In the end, there are only two reproaches to be made to "Gettysburg". The first is about the music : sometimes there is too much of it. The second is about the speech of colonel Chamberlain to the mutinous soldiers from Maine. I don't really know how officers cheered troops reluctant to fight. But this speech looks like a cliché when you hear it. Those two drawbacks are very minor, fortunately. The movie is anyway very good : it is not up to anybody to keep interest going for 4 hours.
Gettysburg is the greatest Civil War film ever made and one of the best war movies, period. It has everything that a great movie should include, from excellent acting to riveting action, from beautiful cinematography to a stirring musical score.
The acting in the film, especially by the three main characters Tom Berenger (Lt. Gen. James Longstreet), Martin Sheen (Gen. Robert E. Lee), and Jeff Daniels (Col. Joshua Chamberlain), is some of the best possible. They all express hardcore emotion without being over the top. The supporting cast is no less great in their roles, which really carries the film.
The battle scenes are some of the most stirring ever seen on film and my father still cannot watch the Pickett's Charge segment without tearing up. The accompanying music throughout the movie also lends to what is quite possibly one of the top ten movies of all time.
I highly recommend this movie to everyone, history/war buff or not. Trust me, don't be scared by the 4 hour length of the film, you won't even notice and you'll be glued to your seat!
I find "Gettysburg" to be a moving film, and very interesting to me because of the subject material. However, every time I see it I am distracted by so many misses. At the top of the list is the facial hair on the many of the actors, which look like the products of a high school make-up artist. Martin Sheen, while a fine actor makes for a very poor General Lee; not only would several other actors look more like Lee, Sheen plays the general as some sort of spacey mystic. General Lee, while always the gentleman, was decisive in speech and action. Several of the roles are over-acted to the point of seeming like caricatures; Lee, Buford, Tom Chamberlain, and Armistead come to mind. The movie could not have been made without the reenactors and for the most part they do an outstanding job. There are times though when it is obvious that they lack the professional training to convincingly "pull a punch" while attacking the enemy. My heart would give this film eight or nine stars, but my head pulls it down to a six.
I'm a history buff, and while my area of expertise is WW-II, I figured that I should watch this movie to find out more about the American Civil War (which I believe strongly contributed to the push for the Confederation of my country -- Canada -- in 1867).
I should have watched "Glory" again rather than this pompous atrocity. I got sick of watching people standing ramrod straight, wistfully gazing into the distance as they deliver a long, melodramatic soliloquy. Gosh, who knew the army was so full of philosophers?
I'd better read up on the battle from another source. Otherwise, whenever I think of the Battle of Gettysburg, I'll picture a bunch of guys standing around making speeches which are occasionally interrupted by a bit of a brawl.
The problem with this kind of presentation is that you know that the writers are just making stuff up (i.e. putting protracted proclamations into the mouths of people who never uttered them). As a result, you just don't know how much else was made up or bent to fit.
Also, the movie doesn't have any sense of proportion. The coverage of the first day focused on a valiant defense by one group, but there's barely a hint that any other men are doing more than composing their next oratory endeavor.
Definitely a film for Americans to watch if they want to remake their history into something even more epic than it already is. Definitely not a film for anybody trying to learn some history, as I was.
Most of the good and bad of this film comes directly from the source material. When you boil down the script, based on "The Killer Angels", Michael Shaara's excellent novel, you are left with two main plots: Longstreet's reluctant leadership of Pickett's Charge, and Chamberlain's desperate defense of Little Round Top. Throw in some eloquent prognostication from General Buford, voiced here by the grave and gravelly Sam Elliot, and you've got a focused narrative that unwinds over the course of four and a half hours.
What neither the book, nor the film deal with, is everything else. Sure, we are left with General Trimble's dire predictions concerning Culp's Hill, but the audience doesn't see one frame of that particularly bloody spot of the battlefield. Similarly, the Wheat Field and Peach Orchard, where an entire Corps was misled to a gruesome fate, serves only as a fleeting prelude to a single Regiment's bayonet charge.
These are not bad editorial decisions: any lucid historical narrative has to dispense with some important details to get at the heart of the overarching plot. The proof is in the pudding: "Gettysburg" is a better-constructed story than the meandering, pointless "Gods and Generals." So much for plot. Viewers must accept that this film only scratches the surface of the pivotal battle. Repeated viewings may help crystallize the characters, but the battle is still largely nebulous, with lots of "Go over there" or "They're over that way". One needs a map to truly understand the battle, and this film puts us very much in the shoes of the common soldier, who had no idea what was beyond each ridge.
So, is it a good MOVIE? For starters, it's definitely a good story. Joshua Chamberlain exercised enormous poise and control in the midst of a hellacious set of circumstances. Here we truly see a commander snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Longstreet's contrasting inability to do so makes him a pitiable character. Buford's appearance is significant in that it helps establish how and why the two armies settled into their positions.
As for the acting, Jeff Daniels is marvelous as Chamberlain. Tom Berenger is equally good as Longstreet, though his performance is necessarily more nuanced, his already stoic facial expressions hidden by all that facial hair. One of the biggest weaknesses of this movie is the inexplicable casting of Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee. Sheen, the erstwhile amazing president, gives the monumental general a mousy and diminutive quality. Robert Duvall did much better in the otherwise horrendous prequel. Perhaps no one can portray Lee, much as no woman ever made could hope to portray the quintessential Elizabeth Bennett. But Sheen doesn't even come close.
Gettysburg is equally favorable towards both North and South. Both have good and bad leadership, and the film manages to be sympathetic towards many of the opposing participants without descending into hyperbolic exultation.
This is not a film about slavery. The issue is certainly discussed by both sides, but it was of no immediate importance to the action unfolding at Gettysburg. Any criticism leveled at the film on that score misses the point. Those who are genuinely offended should watch "Glory" and note how many times the word "slavery" is mentioned there. There are heroes and villains on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. To charge a movie as being racist simply because it deals even-handedly with both sides is idiotic. Simply put, America deserves to see both sides, because America WAS both sides. America was both the conqueror and conquered, and the history must reflect that dichotomy.
Ultimately, what recommends this movie is more than what detracts from it. The representations, ranging from uniforms and equipment to the actual engagements, are dead-on accurate. But a better portrayal of Robert E. Lee would have helped show what kind of personality Longstreet was up against, and how his objections never had a chance, even after he was proved right. The film's understated use of metaphors is easy to miss. The fictional Kilrain has much to say regarding his place in America, and viewers should pay attention to where he fits in by the film's end. Also of note is the interplay between the two Chamberlain brothers, and what they're doing in the final scene of the movie.
It's a good movie, sure, but not a great one. We'll just have to keep waiting for that definitive Civil War movie to come along.