The epic story of the three day battle that forever changed the course of the American Civil War, this sweeping drama is compassionately recounted through the eyes of soldiers both Confederate and Union.
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Tomatometer®reviews counted: 7see all Gettysburg reviews
Top Critic Reviews
Is it everything it could be? No. Is it the best out there? Yes. The disappointing thing is Ronald Maxwell couldn't direct traffic, so the cast has to carry the whole show. Some can, some cannot.
- chuckgriffiths1, Friday, July 26, 2013
Ted Turner is a Civil War nut, and so its no surprise that he helped fund this sprawling, re-enactor-laden production of the famous battle of the American Civil War. Director James Maxwell and the production team did a pretty good job of coordinating the film and the actor/re-enactors that form the battle scenes. If youre not a history buff, though, there will be little to latch onto regarding the why of the tactics and the flow of the battle. The best that can be said is that it hits the high points of the multi-day action pretty well. The script was lifted from the very good novel Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. The movie, like the book, tells the story of the battle from the viewpoint of a few key individuals, of high and low rank. Jeff Daniels is the standout here: He's very believable and comfortable in his role as Col. Joshua Chamberlain. He has the best scenes, and we know the most about his character from the real Chamberlains writings so there's plenty of depth to his portrayal. It's interesting to note that the whole war could be said to have hinged on what his character did at one point in the action. Truly a case of how one man made a big difference. Less effective is Martin Sheen as General Robert E. Lee. An enigmatic figure at best, Lees character here is mostly reconstructed from a very romantic viewpoint. The real man is elusive, although Sheen does his best in some of the smaller scenes give a glimpse of what he might have been like. Tom Berenger suffers from bad makeup, but he manages to act past that as General James Longstreet. One of the more sympathetic characters is Confederate General Lew Armistead, played by the late Richard Jordan in his last film. Its interesting to note that Jordan died the day of the premiere of the movie, almost to the minute that his character dies on screen. He does a good job portraying a war-weary, disillusioned commander whos been losing his friends one by one over the years of war. Its a nice performance, and amidst the patriotic drumbeats of the film, a welcome shift from the stiff marble-statue portrayals of most of the rest of the generals. Sam Eliott also has a nice role as John Buford, whose defense of the roads into Gettysburg was perhaps the whole reason the battle was fought. Theres certainly plenty of action, spaced throughout the film. The battle sequences are pretty good, and accurately capture the tactics and cost of an attack. The fog of war and lack of information about the opposing armies movements is also a central theme to the movie, as it was for warfare of the period. But none of this will really interest the average viewer, and thats where the movie fails to engage: Its a niche film, with a big budget and lots of sweeping camera work, but no one except a student of history will really care much for whats going on. Its somewhat of an anti-war film, and doesnt point fingers at the underlying reasons for the war. For the Confederacy its still about states rights in 1863. For Lincolns generals its trying to lift the war to something nobler: setting other men free. Only Chamberlain really makes this clear in a nice speech delivered by Daniels. Otherwise, were left adrift in a critical battle that we dont really understand. It was a turning point in the war between the states, but no one realized it at the time. If you like period pieces with warfare, there arent many films about the Civil War that can match this one. While its far from perfect in terms of acting or dialogue, and there are some cheesy effects (the beards are really poorly done!, its still interesting to watch and marvel that people once killed each other who worshiped the same God, and who truly were from the same families and circles of friends. It's a four hour film, so be prepared with plenty of snacks. You might also want to watch something like Ken Burns Civil war before viewing, it will give you much more perspective on the war up to July 1863. Trivia: See if you can catch Ted Turner's cameo appearances in the film.
- chaleins, Saturday, October 9, 2010
I love this film it is probably my favorite war film and it is one I totally like. The characters in the movie are great! The setting in the story is just like watching history as if your there. The story was very good too! Plus Tom Berenger and Jeff Daniels give really great performances. 10 out of 10.
- eluberzachokafka, Saturday, June 30, 2012