Film and TV

Gettysburg – DVD- out now from amazon.co.uk – (Documentary)- 7GPPS

by on 24/07/2012
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The Sales Pitch

[quote]Ridley Scott brings the bloodiest battle in US History to life asyou’ve never seen it before. The battle of Gettysburg is widely credited with determining the course of the Civil War. A brand-new, feature length special from HISTORY, Gettysburg will strip away the romanticised veneer of the Civil War and present the engagement in a new light: a visceral, terrifying experience with everything on the line. At its core, this is the story of the soldiers on the ground, not the generals who commanded from behind the frontlines. Compelling CGI and powerful action footage place viewers in the midst of the fighting, delivering both an emotional cinematic experience and an information packed look at the turning points, technology, and little known facts of perhaps America’s greatest battle.

• Gettysburg received a total of 7 nominations for
the 2011 Primetime Emmy Awards.

• An action packed documentary from Ridley Scott
(Gladiator, Alien and Black Hawk Down).

• Run time 85 Minutes.[/quote]

 

The American Civil War holds a lot of nostalgia for me, not because I have any connection with it obviously (though there was a General Geary who served in the Union army at the time) but because I have fond memories of playing ACW war games with my dad – like battleground and Sid Meirs Gettysburg – and watching the amazing  Ken Burns Civil War series on TV. I therefore am always quite pleased when a good ACM documentary comes my way, and to get to review one by Sir Ridley Scott was a no brainer… Stick it on, lets go!

Straight to the Point: A good effort but I think it spent too much time trying to make the effects and battle scenes look nice and neglected the historical content somewhat… still enjoyable.

Things We Like 

  • Looks nice and choreographed well – Being Sir Ridley you know it is not going to be a half arsed effort cinematographically. Explosions, CG; blood, men and debris being hurled through the air, limbs being sawn off, heads being smashed in with rifle butts…. It’s definitely not boring and really hits you with the uncomfortable feeling of how awful this sort of warfare was for the combatants; something that generic history documentaries, with lots of maps and pictures, fail to do.
  •  The unknowns – Focuses mainly on lesser known areas of the battle, like Culp’s hill and the peach orchard, with lesser known characters and commanders taking the main roles in the narrative, which is interesting, as most of these sorts of documentaries focus on the battles in and around Little round top and generally talk mostly of the main Generals: Lee, Meade and their nearest subordinates etc. This added a nice new level and a different slant on much foot trodden path.

Niggles

  •  A lot to live up to– Not a fault of its own but making a documentary about something that has been done a million times before is going to be hard, especially when the ACW bench mark is so high with Ken Burns ‘The Civil War.’ For me having seen the aforementioned many times, I always compare other similar documentaries and as much as they have tried to incorporate certain aspects, like actors narrating the journal entries and letters of the protagonists, It didn’t really pull me in as much as TCW did. I guess It is the same as watching a David Attenborough wild life program and then watching another similar one; it just isn’t the same.
  •  A Lack of historical depth– For a person who isn’t into history or maybe for a teacher who is trying to introduce this period to a class, the more story driven, visual spectacle will engage none believers and hopefully help them learn something; BUT for those of us who know a bit about the era, holes start to appear. The one that bugged me the most was when one of the historians talks about how Picketts charge nearly succeeded, “they almost did it” he says passionately, but all I was thinking was “NO THEY DIDN’T!”Picketts charge was one of history’s biggest blunders and the precursor to WW1 style frontal assaults on well protect defences, across open ground. He lost 50% of his 9 brigades and only managed to reach the Union line briefly, in the centre, before being categorically repulsed. All involved knew it was a mistake; Lee especially.
  •  Slightly confusing – I’m not sure if it was the over reliance on the visuals and them having to miss out bits, or if I just missed them talking about it because I was so absorbed in the explosions and gore, but the battle report (if you will) didn’t seem to flow very well and when the first map was shown, Meade was already entrenched on the high ground, in the famous hook formation; no mention of the charge for the little and big round tops?

Conclusion

 Gettysburg is a visual feast, well choreographed and with good ideas, but is sadly not the best “historical” documentary I have ever watched.  

 I am guessing it was probably quite an expensive film to make, but personally I would have tried to stretch it out and given more detail about other areas of the battle….. but that is just me being a history dork.

 

Matt Geary 23/07/2012

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