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Blu-ray | Blu-ray Book Packaging
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(Jun 19, 2012)
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Marking the 150th-anniversary commemoration of the Civil War, Ronald F. Maxwell’s acclaimed film now arrives in a Director’s Cut featuring 17 minutes of compelling additional footage. Filmed at actual battle locations and full of authentic details, this rousing and soulful movie plunges you into the heat of the bloodiest battle fought on American soil. History comes alive with intense and spirited battles as well as the dilemmas, motivations and fears of the leaders. Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen and Stephen Lang star in this magnificent epic based on Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Killer Angels.
With just 17 minutes of additional footage, the Gettysburg rerelease has to be one of the more modest director's cuts in recent memory (by contrast, the director's cut of Gods and Generals, the Gettysburg prequel that was also reissued to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, contains a full hour of previously unseen material). The bulk of this new footage consists of additions to previously existing scenes, such as a conversation in the Confederate camp between Tom Berenger's Lt. Gen. James Longstreet and Stephen Lang's Maj. Gen. George Pickett.
Like the Gods and Generals rerelease, this two-disc edition comes in handsome Blu-ray "book packaging," which includes bios of cast members and their characters, photos, time lines, and more. Audio commentary by director Maxwell, cinematographer Kees Van Oostrum, author James M. McPherson, and military historian Craig Symonds, expanded from the original video release, can be found on the first disc, while various other special features, almost all of which have been previously issued, appear on disc two (in standard DVD format, not Blu-ray). Principal among these is a nearly hour-long making-of featurette, narrated by Martin Sheen; the piece is informative but slick, playing out like a promo for the movie while providing both Civil War background and details about central characters… and, of course, their beards. Elsewhere, The Battle of Gettysburg, a 30-minute film that was a 1956 Oscar nominee, offers a detailed history of the battle--not with interviews or reenactments, but entirely by way of photos, music, statues of the main characters, footage of the battlefield landscape as it is today, and Leslie Nielsen's narration. Remaining features include maps of the battlefield and the one new addition, a piece encouraging viewers to make The Journey Through Hallowed Ground, a tour of Civil War battlefields and landmarks from Gettysburg in Pennsylvania to Monticello in Virginia. --Sam Graham
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Most importantly, I want to share that it is a nontraditional (i.e., sporadic) commentary. I believe I erroneously thought I was failing to find the commentary previously (ok, I bought a new Blu Ray player) - note it begins at chapter 3 with an explanation that it is sporadic (i.e., only occasional and non-scheduled issues -- but it is very interesting commentary by historians and the director.) If I had known how limited the commentary was I may not have bought it - but I will restate that it is interesting points from several perspectives.
This time through I was still impressed with Daniels, but also with the portrayal of his brother, his sergeant and General Armitage. Richard Jordon now often plays the tough political boss on TV, but he provides a nuanced performance as Armitage. The remainder of the cast was adequate. It is a long movie and with a more attentive eye, many portions seem to move slowly. However watching it this second time on a large screen and in HD, I was stunned by many visuals of the battlefield in scope, color and composition. No one should rely upon any movie to be the sole record of this historical battle, but it is a valuable addition for those who have some knowledge and it is a good beginning for those who have little exposure to this momentous event.
Gettysburg is a monumental undertaking both historically and in this film. Writer/Director Room Maxwell treats the subject matter with the respect it deserves. He neither dwells on the North or the South's cause but that of the forces who were involved.
Jeff Daniels' performance as Colonel [Joshua] Lawrence Chamberlain is also to be very well commended. He gives life to the noted Maine commander.
For movie buffs and history buffs alike, this is a welcome addition to any DVD library.
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