The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War, and the soldiers on both sides that fought it, while their wives wait nervously and anxiously at home for the good news or the bad news.
Some scenes were filmed on Robert Duvall's estate in Virginia, which was the site of some Civil War skirmishes. See more »
After Jackson is ambushed at night by his own men, the Union begins opening artillery fire on his aids as they rush him back to the road. During one such shot, artillery fires from left to right but in the subsequent shot, with the camera facing in the same direction, the shells from that same firing sequence are seen landing from right to left. See more »
A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some spot of a native land, where it may get the love of tender kinship for the face of the earth, for the labors men go forth to, for the sounds and accents that haunt it, for whatever will give that early home a familiar unmistakable difference amidst the future widening of knowledge. The best introduction to astronomy is to think of the nightly heavens as a little lot of stars belonging to one's own homestead. - George Eliot
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No reenactors were credited individualy, rather there was general thank you to all the reenactors who participated in the filming. See more »
The Director's Cut of the film includes additional action scenes from the Battle of Antietam. The battle scenes are shown from the perspectives of Jackson and Chamberlain, and mostly focus on the fighting in Miller's Cornfield which was a major deciding point of the battle. See more »
This movie was originally slated to come in at a monumental 6 hours, but in advance screenings, it was found that audiences couldn't sit for that long, and so Ronald Maxwell took the hatchet to the film and sliced off over two hours to bring it in at under 4 hours. Unfortunately, it would seem that the material that he excised was vital to the telling of the story, as what seems to have been taken off was vital character exposition at the beginning of the story. So unless you've read the book, you might have no idea as to some of the central character's motivations for their actions.
Most telling is the lack of explanation of why Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a professor of rhetoric and revealed religion at Bowdoin College in Maine, left the sanctity of the classroom to take up soldiering. One minute, we see him in the classroom giving lessons, the next is a scene where his wife tells him that she knows he's going off to war and wonders why. We have no explanation as to why this happened, and so the audience is left to wonder why this ordinary citizen would end up becoming a Lieutenant Colonel in the 20th Maine Regiment of Volunteers.
Maxwell seems to have decided to focus the majority of the movie's story on Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, paying mere lip service to the story of the Union men most prominently featured in the book, Winfield Scott Hancock and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. While the Confederates certainly paint a more colourful picture, man to man, than the seemingly more wooden characters on the Union side, it detracts from what could have made the movie far and away more dramatic, as "Gettysburg" managed to achieve a balance between telling the story going back and forth across the field, between the Confederate and Union sides, to tell the story.
One has to wonder if Maxwell didn't begin to realise that maybe he had gotten in over his head with the telling of this story and with so many characters central to the telling of it. There are some powerful and dramatic scenes in the book that are simply never told in the movie, or are paid lip service to, like the scene where Chamberlain is lying on the ground trying to sleep during the Battle of Fredericksburg. In the book, he hears a window shutter flapping in the night breeze, its eerie rhythm seeming to chant, "Never, forever, never, forever." That was never in the movie, although I got the feeling that this scene was one that may well have ended up on the cutting room floor. We see Chamberlain lying on the battlefield in the winter cold, trying to use the dead bodies around him for warmth to sleep, but again, this scene is painfully too short to reveal its true dramatic impact.
Sadly, one of the most pivotal battles of the early Civil War, Antietam, was removed from the film for reasons of length. I cannot imagine why this battle had to go, as it was one of the reasons that Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. It also detracts from the telling of the film, as one minute we are at Bull Run and the next we're at Fredericksburg, with Burnside in command of the armies. McClellan isn't even featured in the movie, as his scenes obviously ended up on the cutting room floor. This, again, is evidence of how Maxwell seemed to feel as if he got in over his head and had to take out vital scenes and characters to trim his film down for theatrical release. It's only a shame he didn't choose to excise some of the more windy speeches that did nothing to move the story along.
Word has it that a fully restored version of this film is due out at Christmas on DVD format. Although I don't personally own a DVD player at this time, I may well invest in one, just to be able to see this film in its fully restored format. It's just a shame that the film that the majority of the public will go to see may well leave those who don't know their Civil War history as well as some of us a bit confused. It doesn't pay to see this film without having first read the book. Otherwise, this film would be an overly bloated and confusing film that fails to reveal much about its central characters motivations. Sadly, I cannot give it two full thumbs up, but the battle scenes are worth the price of admission alone. It's just a shame that character development was left on the cutting room floor in favour of showing more scenes of the battles. This film suffers because of that flaw.
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