Review this movie
Jul 16, 2014Where to begin.
Long? Yes. Boring? Check. Pretentious? Uh...YES. Historically accurate? Not even close.
Four hours running time is a tall task for any director. Even the Lord of the Rings movies didn't hit 4 hours, and they were entertaining. This movie is painfully long, and full of...well, the only word that really fits here is 'monologues'. Monologues can work in certain media, but movies is not one of them. That's not even to say anything of the content of these monologues, which are mostly Stonewall Jackson praying or someone going on ad nauseum about Southern rights.
The movie proclaims to be a prequel to the movie Gettysburg, telling the story of the first two years of the Civil War leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg. In actuality, it is a biopic about Stonewall Jackson, who, confusingly, is portrayed by the same actor who played an entirely different Confederate general in the film 'Gettysburg'. Ron Maxwell, the writer/director, can't seem to decide what he wants it to be. The movie is also allegedly an adaptation of Jeff Shaara's book of the same name, but read that book and tell me if you think it is anything like its source material.
The writing, poor as it is, is undermined by a disjointed story that quite literally skips four critical campaigns in the eastern theater of the Civil War that Jackson was integral to the outcome (Shenandoah Valley campaign, Peninsula Campaign, Second Bull Run, and Antietam) in favor of showing us pretentious attempts at representing antebellum Southern life. Example one, a ridiculous gathering of Confederate generals to watch a minstrel show that borders on the insane. Example two, a Confederate Christmas party, complete with caroling. I'm not making this **** up. And third and most ungodly annoying example, introducing a little girl at a Southern plantation who Jackson befriends and ends up dying of a fever. I have never wanted a pre-teenage girl to die so strongly as when watching these scenes. The character adds nothing to the story, has the most ridiculous accent you can imagine, is terribly acted, and her role extends the movie for what seems like an entire hour when any audience member with any knowledge of history should be saying, "Uh, didn't we miss...I don't know...HALF of Jackson's most famous battles?!?"
Finally, this movie is 100% neo-Confederate propaganda. It's attempt at representing the antebellum South as a land of leisure and civility is reminiscent that of Gone With the Wind, except that when GWtW was made, there were still people alive who had been slaves. A movie like this made with such unabashed whitewashing of Southern culture and why that war was fought is outright irresponsible. The scene in which Stonewall Jackson promises a reverent slave/camp attendant that black and white Southerners will be united in friendship after the war was cringe worthy.
In short, seeing this movie is a waste of 4 hours of your life you will never get back. Even if human lifespands stretched to 1,000 years, I would not recommend watching this movie.… Expand
Shot with the TV-movie blahs, the film itself is nothing more than an elaborate reenactment, perfectly mating box-of-rocks acting (bring rotten fruit for Mia Dillon's Southern matriarch) and repetitious dialogue so scripturally florid Maxwell might qualify for a Comedy Screenplay Golden Globe next January.
Turner's guileless amateurism stands in refreshing contrast to the rest of the performances -- stilted, self-conscious and sleep-inducing -- that fill this tedious 3-1/2-hour marathon, the Civil War in real time.
By the film's finale the descent into unintentional parody is all but complete, with a big death scene for Jackson complete with an angelic choir on the soundtrack -- the surprise is that they aren't singing "Dixie."