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This review is from: Gods And Generals [DVD]  (DVD)
I loved "Gettysburg", and I had high hopes for this movie, but I'm afraid I was disappointed.
This doesn't mean there isn't merit here. "Gods and Generals" is very faithful to the book on which it is based (probably over-faithful in fact. They are, after all, very different media). It is beautifully filmed, it is painstakingly historically accurate. The acting is superlative, especially Stephen Lang as "Stonewall" Jackson. It is well produced, and well directed. There are some very touching moments - especially during the battle of Fredericksburg, when opposing Irish regiments clash, and the famous display of the Northern lights after nightfall.
One thing I particularly like about it, and also about "Gettysburg", is that there is no conventional "good guys vs bad guys". Fundamentally, "Gettysburg" is a pro-Union movie, while "Gods and Generals" is more sympathetic to the South, but in both movies at least the other side is given the courtesy of explaining their side of the argument, and to point out the reasons why they are fighting this bloody war. This enables you to see that neither side has a monopoly on virtue or vice, and that helps to show them as real characters.
The fundamental problem with "Gods and Generals" is that it is too ambitious. While "Gettysburg" shows what everyone was doing in an intense period of three days, this movie covers the activities of even more major characters over two whole years. With a book that is a difficult act. In a film, even a long one like this, it inevitably means that events are going to be skipped over, and the result is a huge sprawling mess of a movie. The individual scenes are excellent, but they just don't connect to each other with any kind of coherence. If you are a Civil War "buff" the ommissions will irritate you. If you are a general viewer, you are just going to get lost. Really, it would have been better to have expanded this and made it into a 26 part series. Instead, the makers were unable to decide which of the very interesting characters they had would be the focus of the film, so they tried to show all of them, and the net result is that the film has no focus at all.
One for the history affectionados only (which admittedly includes me!)