Thursday, April 8, 2010

1993 - GETTYSBURG, an attempt to tell an American epic tragedy is a really long film

Gettysburg is a very long miniseries/film that is 4 1/2 hours.  It has a lot of talking in it and the actors  wearing authentic civil war period beards look pretty stupid.  A lot of the dialog is not only long winded but fairly stilted at times.  These are the bad things about the film.

Gettysburg was also shot on location in Pennsylvania near or at times actually in the Gettysburg National Park.   It had 5000 civil war reencactors in authentic outfits participating in the film for the battle scenes.  It also has very good photography and the battle scenes are very well staged. These are the good things about this film. 

To the credit of the director/writer Ronald Maxwell, he does a fairly decent job explaining what went on during the 3 days of the battle.  He tries to be fair to both sides, although there is not much mention of one of the causes of the civil war, slavery.  There has also been some criticism of him for simplifying the battle, but to actually recreate everything that happened at Gettysburg would probably make it a 3 day film. 

The acting is a hit and miss deal.  Jeff Daniels and Richard Jordan probably give the best performances.  Martin Sheen is kind of so so as General Lee.  The pivotal role of General Longstreet is played by Tom Berenger who looks pretty unconvincing in his fake beard and fails to really bring home the doubts Longstreet had about Lee and his command of the battle.

Probably the best reason to watch Gettysburg are the authentic battle scenes which have been carefully recreated by the film crew.  There is something that is very emotionally involving about watching the reenactors filmed on the actual locations of the various battles, that no documentary or PBS series can capture.  Watching these men recreate the various millitary maneuvers of both sides really drives home the reality of the amount of death and carnage that was inflicted on both sides.

This film is probably as good a recreation of an important national event that the movies will ever be able to achieve

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