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Gettysburg, Review and blu-ray DVD giveaway


Own it on blue-ray, May 24!

Giveaway–leave a comment and register to win the whole commemorative set of Gods and Generals and Gettysburg! —CLOSED

As promised, here’s  my review of Gettysburg.  Unlike Gods and Generals, this film doesn’t take into account years of the Civil War, but instead just the few days during which the battle of Gettysburg was fought, from June 1 to June 3 1863.  It was, however, considered by many to be the turning point of the war, and constituted the “high water mark” of the Southern army.  The battle of Gettysburg, though we tend to think of it as one long battle, is shown during the movie to be more like several small battles all going over three days.   Like Gods and Generals, the writer/director chooses to focus as much on the people as upon the battles themselves.   This makes for a more compelling film than would just seeing the men shooting at each other.

Gettysburg, however, strays from the format more used in Gods and Generals in delving deeper into various viewpoints.  In Gods and Generals, particularly in the latter half, we see the war mostly from Jackson’s point of view.  In Gettysburg we alternate between Lee (Martin Sheen), Longstreet (Tom Berringer), and Chamberlain.  This brings an emphasis on the South, but like with Gods and Generals I think this was probably due to the fact that the first two were more engaged in the war and more successful than General Meade.  In fact, the annoyance that the Union soldiers felt toward their string of commanders comes out in both these films.  The film does veer off from these heros, however when it’s needed to make points.  For example we see the harsh realities of two friends being on different sides through southern General Lewis Armistead and General Winfield Scott Hancock. 

Because of the different points of views of Gettysburg, we “get to know” some of the officers better than in Gods and Generals, which gives a more personal feel to the film, and thus gives us a good deep understanding of the tragedy on both sides of the battle.   In addition Sheen’s portrayal of Lee is, for lack of a better word, more sensitive.  We hear about his love for his men, his hatred of the war, and his absolute devotion to duty, similar to Jackson’s in Gods and Generals. Through Chamberlain we see the war through the idea of an idealist, as well as an officer with no military background; he excels, but appears secretly unsure of himself.  With Chamberlain, we also get continuity between the two films.  In Gettysburg a soldier tells him he’s been in eleven engagements, and asks Chamberlain how many he’s been in.  Chamberlain’s reply is “not that many” but after watching him in Gods and Generals at Fredericksburg, we can read between the lines of his statement “not that many” as “just that one would be enough for anyone.”   

Of course, all of these wonderful portrayals comes at some sacrifice–we don’t see all the smaller battles/skirmishes that take place during the three day period.  Every time I watch the film I am confused by day one, and who fights whom.  I suspect, however, that many of the men were as well.  Day two is portrayed mostly though a couple minutes of the Devil’s Den, and Little Round Top (which is a fantastic portrayal).   We see nothing of the Peach Orchard, the Wheatfield, both of which were terribly bloody, nor, to the best of my knowledge is General Sickles ever mentioned.  We are told of the battles going on in other areas but we don’t see them.  I can’t see how it would be possible, however, to show every movement on the field and give us the personal element in a reasonable time period.  Of the two, I think the second is more important and more compelling.

So Gettysburg is a must-see if you have any interest in American history.  It’s a must-own if you have more than a passing interest.  But is the extended DVD worth it?  My answer is yes, but not with the same emphasis as Gods and Generals.  It has 17 extra minutes, instead of the hour that comes with Gods and Generals.  However, that 17 minutes is very good, and the book that comes with it is worth it as well.  In this book, we get more information about the historical figures we meet in the film, which adds to the appreciation of the film.  As I’ve mentioned already, I already own DVD of both these movies and I intend to buy the extended version of both (I’m giving away the free copy).  Here’s the official link.  And don’t forget to leave a comment to register to win Gods and Generals and Gettysburg.

Additional information:

Gettysburg: Directors Cut is Maxwell’s acclaimed film about the legendary 3-day battle and will be available for the first time on Blu-ray, featuring 17 minutes of compelling additional footage. Filmed at actual battle locations and full of authentic details, this rousing and soulful movie plunges the viewer into the bloodiest battle fought on American soil. History comes alive with intense and spirited battles and the dilemmas, motivations and fears of the leaders. Tom Berenger (Inception), Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen (TV’s “West Wing”) and Stephen Lang star in this gripping film based on Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, “The Killer Angels.”


Special Features* and details:

  • ·    Commentary by Ronald F. Maxwell, Kees Van Oostrum, James M. McPherson, and Craig Symonds
  • ·    The Making of Gettysburg, Narrated by Martin Sheen
  • ·    The Battle of Gettysburg, Narrated by Leslie Nielson
  • ·    On Location
  • ·    Maps of the Battlefield
  • ·    Ron Maxwell’s Invitation to Take the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (NEW)
  • ·    Run Time: 271 minutes
  • ·    Not Rated
  • ·    Price: $34.99 SRP


  1. Terry Irene Blain says:

    Love this movie. I have a friend who’s a Civil War buff and she saw the movie and then my whole writing group went to see it.

    So then I took my husband and teenage sons. The best part of that was the scene when the union lieutenant is talking to two confederate soldiers taken captive and asks them why they are fighting. They reply they’re ‘fightin’ fer their rats’, and the union guys say ‘rats?’ – yeah ‘rights’ — the best part is my husband is from Oklahoma, and my boys understood the ‘rats’ right away.

    Oh, and my brother, the stunt man, was in this movie and I could see him get shot 3 time (all as a different character – one union, two confederate).

  2. Hi,

    Great review. I am a super civil war buff and now I want to go buy both Gettysburg and Gods and Generals!! During college I took a whole class on the Civil War and have a minor in American History. The Civil War is jus such an amazing time period to study.

  3. Denise Eagan says:

    Wow, Terry, where did he get shot? I’d like to see that!

    Kris, the Civil War fascinates me. Not just the war, but what brought it about and the aftermath. It had such a huge impact on the U.S. I don’t think we study that nearly enough. I think much of the American West was settled because of the war–my understanding is that lot of displaced young men went West to make their fortunes there. It made for some difficulties in the Kansas railheads, with southern cowboys running up against the people on the other side of the war.

  4. Jenn Scott says:

    I have to admit I’ve never seen these movies. . .but I’ve always wanted to. Thanks for the great review!

  5. hmgarrison says:

    Great review! I’ve never really gotten to see either of these but I would love to! Thanks for the giveaway!


  6. Jay says:

    Great review. I saw the Director’s Cut way back in 1994 when it was released on video (complete with a Civil War bullet!). I’ve seen this movie–no joke–around 100 times. And I can’t wait to see it on Blue Ray!

  7. Would love to have a chance to win the DVD. Am I the only one to comment that the dates of Gettysburg as noted in your blog are incorrect? The battle was fought
    in July 1,2,3 and not in June as shown in my quote of the dates from your blog…….

    “Gettysburg was fought, from June 1 to June 3 1863.


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