1990s Gettysburg (1993/2011, Director’s Cut, Blu Ray)

Published on June 8th, 2011 | by Chris

5

Gettysburg (1993/2011, Director’s Cut, Blu Ray)


Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On June 8, 2011
Last modified:October 3, 2012

Summary:

The sheer scope of the film alone is worth it, and if it gets you interested in history then even better.

I have to admit, first of all, that I have not seen the original 1993 cut of Gettysburg.  Shame on me, I know, so I have nothing to compare any "Director's Cut" to.

This film chronicles the events on both sides, surrounding the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.  It does so in a pretty good "historical drama" type of format, with some caveats... keep reading.

First off.  The Director's cut weighs in at a whopping 271 minutes.  Which seems like a lot (and it is) but consider that the original was "only" 261 minutes.  So pencil in a full afternoon for this one.  Once you get going into it, it really doesn't seem like that long, thankfully.  But I think I can spot the scenes that were left on the floor originally.  At least some of them.

I also can't speak to the historical accuracy of much (if any) of the movie, I haven't' done my homework, so keep that in mind.

I have to say, that this really could be more of an epic/classic film than it is.  It suffers on a few points, unfortunately.  The soundtrack being one of them.  I see plenty of reviews about how "emotional" and "moving" it is.  It actually could be, if it didn't sound like it came from a computer.  From the beginning, it had that "canned" feel to it.  A minor pick I know, but when you're dealing with 4+ hrs of screen time, it matters.

Second, there are some scenes which, and I should pick my words carefully, felt like they were either afterthoughts, rushed, reshoots, or something I'm not sure of.  The acting in them was wooden, especially (and surprisingly) at times from Martin Sheen (Gen. Lee) and Tom Berenger (Gen. Longstreet) ....  On the other hand, Jeff Daniels (Col. Chamberlain) and Sam Elliot (Gen. Buford) had it down.  I'm not sure whether or not to chalk this up to character acting or what.  It is decidedly difficult to recreate a persona based on written accounts and photos, which I suspect is what happened here.

On the other hand.  Once you get past some of the "closer in" talking heads scenes, as a historical battlefield drama it really is quite good.  I'm talking epic-scale.  Forget about your computer generated armies here, folks, what you have is hundreds of re-enactors out there on the battlefield recreating one of the bloodiest scenes of the Civil War.  It is really an impressive and jaw-dropping sight.  The movie also manages to convey just how particularly dreadful conditions were, how completely wasteful battles like this were, and the widely disparate conditions between officers and "grunts."

I did find it curious (as others who have reviewed it) that this movie would seem to side more with the Confederacy in its presentation.  The (drawn out) scene with Gen. Lee rousing the troops before the charge was a particular example of this.  A disproportionate amount of screen time seemed to be given to the South "behind the scenes", maybe due to Sheen and Berenger, getting them more screen time, who's to say.  I suspect some of the Lee scene, and some of the more lengthy battle scenes may have been dropped for the original release, maybe someone who has seen both can comment.

There are some poignant moments on the side of the Union, as well, particularly as it pertains to Chamberlain and Buford and their respective men.   Good stuff that should not be overlooked, but more could have been done with them.   A scene with the younger Chamberlain brother (C. Thomas Howell) and some captured "Rebs", is also not to be missed.

As for the Blu Ray presentation...  Not bad at all.  The sound inparticular is brilliant.  When those cannons start firing, hold onto your seat, because you will feel it there.  Picture wise, it appears to be an accurate and faithful representation of a '93 film, grain and all.  Not a bad thing, just don't expect crystal-clear HD.  No visible "black noise" to be found.  I have not delved into the extras yet, either.  The "book" retail packaging is a nice touch, tons better than those cheap little blue plastic things, and will stand out for sure on your shelf.

I would highly recommend this movie, even parts of it, as an educational tool in the classroom.  (Spread out over an entire week to be sure!)  It isn't particularly gory (it could have been), and no profanity or "adult bits" that I recall.

I will have to go back and watch this again, maybe a couple more times.  I think the length itself causes a bit of that "too long, didn't read" syndrome, which can cause you to stop paying real close attention.  And it did happen to me a couple of times.  Who knows, it may grow on me more!  I will have to do my homework next time as well 😉

I have to cave, though, despite the things I didn't like above and give Gettysburg a 7/10.  The sheer scope of the film alone is worth it, and if it gets you interested in history then even better.  Overall, I actually did enjoy it when it was over, believe it or not.

Gettysburg: Director's Cut (Blu-ray Book Packaging) Gettysburg: Director's Cut (Blu-ray Book Packaging)
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Description

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...

DVD Information

Binding: Blu-ray
Aspect Ratio:
Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Brand: Warner Manufacturing
Manufacturer: Warner Home Video
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • Tom Berenger
  • Jeff Daniels
  • Martin Sheen
  • Stephen Lang

Features

  • Factory sealed DVD

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Gettysburg (1993/2011, Director’s Cut, Blu Ray) Chris

Summary: The sheer scope of the film alone is worth it, and if it gets you interested in history then even better.

3.5


User Rating: 0 (0 votes)


About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



5 Responses to Gettysburg (1993/2011, Director’s Cut, Blu Ray)

  1. warmoviebuff says:

    Too harsh, my friend.

    1. The movie was made for a TV miniseries by Ted Turner (he acts in it and is killed in Pickett’s Charge). This explains the length. It is a testament to the quality of the finished product that the decision was made to release it to theaters before showing it on TV. I saw it as a field trip for my History Club.

    2. It is, in my opinion, one of the most accurate war movies ever made. I would put it and Black Hawk Down as the most accurate battle movies. Keep in mind it is based on a novel (The Killer Angels) so some of the dialogue is imagined.

    3. I agree it is slanted toward the South (so is the book), but not unacceptably so (like its inferior prequel “Gods and Generals”). Also, the most memorable character is a Yankee (Chamberlain).

    4. Some of the acting is bland, but perhaps the characters were bland. I know critics laughed at the facial hair, but if you see the dual pictures of the actors and their real life counterparts – they look alike. (My alternate name for the Civil War is “The War of the Facial Hair”)

    5. For teachers, I recommend showing the segments on the 20th Maine and Pickett’s Charge. The scenes on Little Round Top are amazing and you can tell your students they are watching the most important hours in the history of the Union. Discussion question: what if Chamberlain had lost?

    6. The only flaw in the movie (and it is unavoidable) is it peaks with the bayonet charge.

  2. Chris says:

    Yeah I will admit it was a little too harsh. I do feel like I need to watch it again just to make sure I got everything I was supposed to, because reading that again it doesn’t quite seem fair. Some parts, like the soundtrack, did stick out to me…. It was good, dry, but good. Sort of a Civil War version of Tora! Tora! Tora! maybe….

    I should have stated that it was a mini-series. It’d be nice to know where the cut-points were supposed to be and watch it that way, maybe it would make even more sense in “episode” form.

    I didn’t mention the hair, lol. Although it was a little obvious, Lee and Longstreet in particular. Like I said it’s probably difficult to gauge a persona from pictures and letters, but I was just surprised to see normally excellent actors being this way… Maybe they were PO’d at those beards, lol.

    Like I said, too, I have no idea on the historical accuracy, but I have to assume that it is so. I should have called that out a little better. I don’t claim to be a historian so much! Just an armchair critic 😀

    I have yet to pencil in the time for Gods and Generals, hopefully this weekend. I’m a closet Duvall fan so hopefully he won’t let me down!

  3. SoldiersMail says:

    Gods and Generals will absolutely put you to sleep. If you thought the speeches in Gettysburg could get tedious, stand by for even more of the same in the “prequel”. I love Gettysburg, and still couldn’t stand Gods and Generals. I think Gettysburg does much to give light to the bookish Chamberlain who went on to become Governor of Maine, and actually did save the Union by his actions during the battle. Have to say that Jeff Daniels is masterful in that role, which actually makes me kind of forgive him for his awful comedy stuff (Dumb & Dumber, etc.).

  4. warmoviebuff says:

    Jeff Daniels in “Gettysburg” is akin to Matthew Broderick in “Glory” – miscasting brilliance.

  5. Andre Raymond says:

    I saw this movie the week-end it came out in theatres in Montreal in the best old movie palace in the city. I have to disagree with “Warmoviebuff” in that you were not harsh enough.

    You are correct in criticising Eidelman’s score (it was a low point in movie sooundtracks when great composers like Jerry Goldsmith were forced to use synth patches instead of real musicians). The score, divorced from the image is un-listenable. (forgive my spelling)

    Long speaches and stilted dialogue aside, the battle scenes are lacking in Point of View. Little round top excepted, its just a whole lot of re-enactors running across fields. There is no camera specificity to it. The closeest I ever saw to this chaos was Bondurchuik’s “War and Peace” (1966). Both filmic battles had a glut of resources but no vision. (I refer here to the Battle of Borodino in the other film).

    As for “Gods and Generals” I only saw it once, but thought it was much better than this mess.

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