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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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Top customer reviews
Its major asset is the sincerity of all of the major performances--and that includes TOM BERENGER looking magnificently scruffy behind his impressive beard, MARTIN SHEEN as Robert E. Lee, STEPHEN LANG as George Pickett, JEFF DANIELS and C. THOMAS HOWELL as Union brothers, RICHARD JORDAN as Lewis Armistead and SAM ELLIOTT as John Buford.
Another fine asset is the stirring musical background with patriotic war themes and drum beating exercises adding flourish to the drama. The sets, costumes and color photography are all first rate, but some will be impatient with the talk between battles which is sometimes a little too extensive. All of the battle scenes look like a re-enactment, a soft core version of the more graphic horrors of war that are rampant in many more recent war films.
Still, it's an impressive film from start to finish and the performances are all admirable.
The most haunting exchange of dialog occurs at the end of the battle with Pickett being told by Robert E. Lee to keep an eye on his division.
"Sir," says a tearful Pickett, "there is no division."
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