Monday Movies ~4th January 2021

For Phil’s choice this week we are back to the Civil War and the movie Gods and Generals (2003) directed by Ronald F Maxwell. The movie is based on novel of the same name by Jeffrey Shaara, and is part of a trilogy of books, a prequel to the 1st book, The Killer Angels by Jeff’s Dad Michael regarding Gettysburg which also became a movie (we will be doing that too), and the 3rd book The Last Full Measure, which followed on from Gettysburg but wasn’t made into a movie. The movie company in their wisdom, decided to do Gettysburg first out of order, and it did very well at the box office, then Gods and Generals was released and didn’t do well at all, so the last book in the series wasn’t taken up.

Anyway, we are watching the first two in the correct order.

AT 4 & 1/2 hrs for the extended version, Gods and Generals is a long haul, so we did it over two nights. Not much point in doing the plot, Civil War history is huge, and if you’re from the USA you must surely have done it in school, and if not, it’s too big to go into here. Suffice to say this covers the time from when Robert E Lee resigns from the Union Army to take charge of the Confederate forces, covering Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Moss Neck, and through to the Battle of Chancellorsville and the death of Stonewall Jackson, Lee’s right hand man. Robert Duvall takes the part of Lee, and Stephen Lang of Thomas Jackson.

It’s a huge movie, with extended battle scenes, and set talky pieces inbetween. The battle scenes are meticulously planned and shown. They don’t show much blood and gore, nothing like Private Ryan and the like, but still manage to convey the absolute horror and scariness that men must feel when walking into a barrage of artillery and gunfire. It reminded me of the scenes of going over the top during The Somme in WW1. The stupidity and lack of tactical prowess shown by the Generals making the decisions on the Union side is sharply defined.

The movie focuses a lot on the doings of General Stonewall Jackson who is shown to be a sharp cookie, if a little OTT with ardent religious fervour in the movie. Military historians regard Jackson as one of the most gifted tactical commanders in U.S history, so maybe all his prayers and exhortations to the divine served him, and the Confederates well. At least until he was shot by his own men in a case of mistaken identity.

Robert Duvall is his usual self, and portrays the gravitas of Lee well, along with his skills as a tactician. Jeff Daniels is employed for the Union side, playing Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and delivering the full speech of Caesars crossing of the Rubicon to his regiment of soldiers, which seemed a bit mad but hey, it’s hollywood.

The whole film feels like it was made in the 1950’s with stilted speechifying and cheesy sentimentality inbetween some epic but bloodless battles. The slavery part of the war is not shown and barely mentioned, though the odd black person is shown being treated nicely by the whites they are with and now and again one gets a starry look in their eyes and wishes they were free. Any Southern homestead has happy looking slaves! Every man is a good guy, and all the women are angelic, every soldier is told to ‘do your duty’, and they do, getting massacred in the process (Union) or cheering a resounding victory (Confederates). The movie feels very sympathetic to the Confederates and focuses on their grievances about losing their independance, and keeps well away from the emancipation of the slaves. Maybe that comes up more in the books, or will when we watch the next installment, Gettysburg. But neither does it diss the Union either.

Part of the movie was given over to the actor John Wilkes Booth, played by Chris Connor, who is shown to be a popular actor in his day, fawned over by simpering ladies, as he is very handsome. He refuses to let President Lincoln and his Missis come back stage to meet him after they see him in a play, β€œYou may tell that tyrant, that destroyer of civil liberties, that war monger, that I am in dispose,” he tells the stagehand who asks him if Lincoln can come back, before changing his mind to have the stagehand tell the President that he had already left for the evening. So his pro-South credentials are established.

Having watched a few documentaries now on the Civil War, I found it hard to really like this movie. Apart from the battles, it was clichΓ©d and saccharine. Duvall didn’t really feature much so no great depth to his interpretation of Lee, just an heroic resignation speech at the beginning of the movie. Most of the movie concerned Stonewall Jackson, and Lang certainly gave himself to the part.

Fraggle Rating: On the whole, a worthy watch for anyone interested in the Civil War. Great uniform details and cinematography at least.

27 thoughts on “Monday Movies ~4th January 2021

  1. Not one for me. I’ve probably mentioned before that I find the American Civil War utterly confusing. I don’t understand the whys and wherefores and the geography is a closed book to me. I’m glad you’re getting something out of it, though.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. For all that I can read a book for hours on end, I simply cannot stare at a screen that long. I get antsy and have to pause the movie and get up and move around and DO something.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The books were good too. I thought Lang was perfect as jackson, who was a relgious maniac in real life, and had some exceedingly strange habits. The film covers the battle of Fredericksburg very well too, as it was exactly like that.
    And Joshua Chamberlain was a professor of Rhetoric in Maine, so I can believe he said all that stuff. He features heavily in the film Gettysburg, again played by Jeff Daniels. Despite his brief appearance, I preferred Duvall to Martin Sheen as R E. Lee.

    And this film has the wonderful song ‘Bonnie Blue Flag’ in it! All together now …
    “We are a band of brothers and native to the soil
    Fighting for our Liberty, With treasure, blood and toil
    And when our rights were threatened, the cry rose near and far
    Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star!
    Hurrah! Hurrah!
    For Southern rights, hurrah!
    Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.
    (Music)
    As long as the Union was faithful to her trust
    Like friends and like brethren, kind we were, and just
    But now, when Northern treachery attempts our rights to mar
    We’ll hoist on high the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.
    Hurrah! Hurrah!
    For Southern rights, hurrah!
    Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.
    (Music)
    First gallant South Carolina nobly made the stand
    Then came Alabama and took her by the hand
    Next, quickly Mississippi, Georgia, Florida
    All raised on high the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.
    Hurrah! Hurrah!
    For Southern rights, hurrah!
    Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.
    (Music)
    Ye men of valor gather around the banner of the right
    Texas and fair Louisiana ‘ve join us in the fight
    Davis, our loved President, and Stephens statesmen are
    Now rally behind the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.
    Hurrah! Hurrah!
    For Southern rights, hurrah!
    Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.
    (Music)
    And here’s to brave Virginia, the Old Dominion State.
    With the young Confederacy at length has linked her fate.
    Impelled by her example, now other States prepare
    To hoist on high the Bonnie Blue flag that bears a single star.
    Hurrah! Hurrah!
    For Southern rights, hurrah!
    Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.
    (Music)
    Then cheer, boys, cheer, and raise a joyous shout
    For Arkansas and North Carolina now have both gone out;
    And let another rousing cheer for Tennessee be given
    The single star of the Bonnie Blue Flag has grown to be eleven!
    Hurrah! Hurrah!
    For Southern rights, hurrah!
    Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.
    (Music)
    Then here’s to our Confederacy, strong we are and brave,
    Like patriots of old we’ll fight, our heritage to save.
    And rather than submit to shame, to die we would prefer
    So cheer, cheer for the Bonnie Blue flag that bears a single star.
    Hurrah! Hurrah!
    For Southern rights, hurrah!
    Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.
    Hurrah! Hurrah!
    For Southern rights, hurrah!
    Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.”
    You might have guessed that I bloody love this film! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember watching this as I followed Petes recommendations from his early reviews, before the list got really long πŸ™‚ Too many beards for me and I was lost pretty quickly, although I do have a memory of some good bits, I couldn’t say for certain they are from this film πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember when this came out and wanted to see it, but I never got around to it. Although I did see the Killer Angels – Gettysburg adaptation. I liked it overall, but found it a bit long with some pretty sappy dialogue moments all throughout. I have read this book too and its Gettysburg counterpart, although it’s been so long I don’t remember much from either of them. I do know that from what I’ve read, Jackson was a bit of a religious nut in real life (and maybe a nut in other ways too haha!).

    Liked by 1 person

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