Stephen Lang, Jeff Daniels, Robert Duvall,
Bill Campbell, C. Thomas Howell,
Mira Sorvino, Kevin Conway,
Bruce Boxleitner, Frankie Faison,
Kali Rocha, Mia Dillon

Ronald F. Maxwell

Ronald F. Maxwell
(From the book by Jeffrey M. Shaara)

Ted Turner & Ronald F. Maxwell

Warner Brothers

Rated PG-13 for sustained battle sequences.

Historical Drama
A Nation Divided.

"I never thought I would see the day when a president would raise an army to invade his own country."
Ted Turner Pictures presents an extraordinary story from the creator's of GETTYSBURG, a film as heroic in scale as the events and the people on which it is based...GODS AND GENERALS. The already released GETTYSBURG is the second chapter. This film is the first part of a trilogy which will be followed by the third chapter THE LAST FULL MEASURE. This epic screen adaptation is from Jeff Shaara's best selling novel. This is the story that begins at the onset of the Civil War which was the bloodiest conflict in America. It was a war that cost 620,000 American lives. GODS AND GENERALS is the story of a nation divided, that begins at the start of the Civil War in 1861 and ends with the death of one of it's most important figures Stonewall Jackson in 1863. It was a time of death and a time of heroes; a time of bravery and a time of savagery; it was time when brother fought brother and father fought son and a country fought itself.
"War is the sum of all evil."
War! War! What is it good for? Now where did I hear that before? War never changes, whether it is a World War or Civil War but it does have the same result…death and more death. I have grown up and I do not see war as I did as a child where I only remember it as glamourous. Movies showed me heroes back then, men who were willing to die for their country. What was missing in most of the ones I saw was blood. Yes there were deaths but rarely did I see any blood. The American Civil War was my first taste of what was really like…not on films but in a set of cards. I remember seeing the Civil War cards as a child and began collecting them mostly because they intrigued me as they were not what I was used to seeing. These cards were my first taste of what war was really like. It was vile and bloody and not what I saw in Television teleplays of the day. I saw people bleeding in vast quantities, cannons dismembering soldiers and the one image that has remained with me to this day. On one card I witnessed men impaled on sharpened wooden spikes that protruded from a center log. This wheel was rolled down hills at attacking soldiers. Those that could not run out of the way were impaled and died slow and excruciating deaths. This was not what war had looked like before to the eyes of this young child. It held a morbid fascination for me and they were one of my most prized possession. Where they went over the years, I have no idea, but I certainly wish I had them today as they are worth quite a bit of money to collectors.

"There is Jackson standing like a stone wall."
Why I bring this up is to point out that one of the interesting things about GODS AND GENERALS is that for a theatrical release I find it a throwback. Like GETTYSBURG it is nothing like my Civil War cards. I have not seen a war movie like this in quite a while. It virtually shows no blood in this film. I guess it is hard to picture scenes where cannons go off right in the face of soldiers and you see nothing. Soldiers are bayoneted and we do not see a drop of blood. I only remember seeing one mild bloody scene with a soldiers eye bleeding. When we see a battlefield after a major battle, bodies cover the field like snow. Soldiers who desperately need sleep so they put dead bodies over and around themselves to keep warm and to use them as bullet shields as well. Even during this scene we see hardly little to any blood. This film was obviously made to end up on television channels like History Channel and Bravo, so blood is something that is to be kept to a minimum. I guess, like many others, I have become jaded over the years and expect to see more realism. Still the film has a certain innocence about it this way.

"Go do your duty. Go out and get yourself killed. Go!"
While I thoroughly enjoyed the movie I found quite a few things annoying about the film. The 200 plus minute film length was no problem at all to bear but the constant religious preaching at time became annoying. Yes I understand that these men were believers and that it was a part of the times but it seemed that they were using sledgehammers on the audience. The other thing that I found annoying was the lack of black people in this film. Correct me if I’m wrong here but did the south not have a large slave population? The film has only two African American speaking parts. I could also count all the blacks in this film on one hand. I will not even venture to give you my opinion as to why this was done.

"From now on war is our judge."
All my complaining aside this one well acted period piece film. GODS AND GENERALS has 158 speaking roles and thousands of battlefield “re-enactors” who are cannon fodder for the cameras. Robert Duvall shines as the aristocratic General Robert E. Lee for all his 20 minute screen time. Lee, a native Virginian, had to resign a distinguished thirty year military career with the United States Army in order to defend his home in the South even though he did not believe a civil war would come to pass.Stephen Lang as the devout Christian, General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson brings in a superb performance as well, playing the part with conviction and humanity. He was a by-the-book military instructor whose fierce exterior hid a compassionate soul. Jackson became one of the greatest commanders of the Civil War and Lee’s right hand man. Jeff Daniels as Union Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain performs well as the same character he portrayed in GETTTYSBURG. Chamberlain gave up a promising academic career at Maine's Bowdoin College to volunteer for service in the Union Army. He would go on to become one of the most heroic soldiers in American history , though you would not be able to tell by seeing him trying to survive in a battlefield covering himself with dead bodies to survive through the night. He has many important scenes, from those where he performs oratories as he quotes Julius Caesar to his men who are about to suffer a brutal defeat early in the war, to his expositions on the hypocrisies of the South saying they are fighting for freedom while enslaving another race of human beings. Donzaleigh Abernathy plays one of the two African-American speaking roles in this movie. She plays the maid, Martha who stays behind when her masters leave their home as the invading Union Army enters Fredericksburg. This actress does an excellent job in this limited but important role. Other actresses that shine in their limited roles are Mira Sorvino as Fanny Chamberlain, the wife of Joshua; Kali Rocha as Anna Jackson does a superb job especially at the end as she stands by her dying husband’s bedside.

"We left to escape a land of tyranny and we end up shooting at each other in a land of freedom."
Something I found interesting was that we all heard the statements that brother fought brother and father fought son in the Civil War, correct? Well in the films insistence to political correctness we do not get to see any of this happen. We do see only a passive scene where a father leaves to go to the North while his son stays by Jackson’s side to fight foe the South. Director Ron Maxwell does not wimp out completely in this respect. He shows us that brother fought brother by using the Irish. The North and South had Irish Brigades who fought for them. Using these groups showed us that indeed brother fought and killed brother. The battle between these two Irish Brigades was really an especially poignant sequence. Both sides were desperately trying to talk the other side into joining them so they would not have to fight their brothers. Survival over brotherhood wins out and the two sides fight each other in horrendous scenes of lost lives. The Confederate Irish win the day and their Union brothers suffer great losses

"What is it? he never cried before."
"I think he is crying for them all."
One of the most memorable scenes in the film takes place in April of 1863. Jackson had befriended a little girl earlier that year at Christmas time. She was a surrogate daughter to him as he could not be home to see his new daughter born. He played and laughed with little Jane and loved her deeply. Before leaving for the front he visits Jane and discovers that all the children have contracted Scarlet Fever. He leaves behind his personal physician to care for her. The usually stoic Stonewall Jackson is at the front with his men when he is informed that little Jane died of the fever. This is too much for him to bear and he breaks down in tears not just for her but for all his fallen men. This is beautifully done and shows that under that cold war worn exterior was a man who loved and hurt for all those under him who were sacrificing their all. Later his mood improves when his wife come to visit with their new daughter.

"Tell me general, do you expect to live to the end of this war?"
The war ends for General Stonewall Jackson in 1863 after the stunning Battle of Chancellorsville. In the dark of night Jackson and some of his commanders find themselves behind enemy lines. Making their way back to their own line, Confederate soldiers thinking these men were Union soldiers, fire on them. Jackson is fatally wounded, a victim of friendly fire.. He is brought back to his camp where a doctor saves his life by cutting off his left arm. Unfortunately he succumbs to pneumonia and dies in the arms of his wife ending a brilliant military career.

"Hail Ceasar! We who are about to die salute you."
GODS AND GENERALS leaves you with the fact that war had heroes on both sides. Mostly it lets you see that even the enemy is human. This is the sad part of war. We forget that soldiers are people with real lives, and families and friends and a story to tell. I heard a saying; I don’t remember where, that a man is the hero of his own story. In war I figure this applies more than anywhere else. I mean where else can a man sacrifice everything for an idea or his family , friends and country. No matter whose side the soldier is on, he is the hero of his life.

"General, I was born a slave but I wants ta die free."
The movie shows many a battle and the consequences of those battles. It shows human and moving stories of the people involved in this conflagration. It depicts the suffering of those that stay behind and the heroics of the women who sacrificed their son’s, brother’s, fathers and husbands to a war machine that got out of hand. The story is told not just by the generals and soldiers but by the camp cooks, wives, daughters and lovers whose lives were also changed forever.

"It is well that war is so terrible or we should grow too fond of it."
The film does make every attempt to be historical especially by filming the battles in the actual field where they first occurred. Costumes and weapons are historically accurate as well. The opening credits even take the time to show us the flags of each brigade involved in the conflict. It tries to explain to us the feeling of those on both sides. Each side believes it is right and that God is with them and they will fight for what is there’s. Through General Jackson’s black cook we see the hopes of freedom this war could bring to his people. The Northerners find it hard to accept that the South is fighting for its freedom while it denies it to others within their own states. The Southerners see the Northerners only as war profiteers who once they are out of office will just go home with their profits. The Southerners make it clear that they are fighting for their homes and way of life. The film of course has little time to show us some of the ingenious new weapons involved in the war such as the ironclad sea vessels and even experimental submarines. It does not get into the fact that England and France were the primary backers of the South. These two countries wanted the United States to be split so as to prevent it from becoming the world’s largest republic. If this renegade colony stayed as one country they feared it would become a power so big that it would give them cause to fear. They were correct in this idea of course. In fact these two European countries helped them with so much that the South would have won this war if it had not been for the intervention of the Russians who helped back the North side and helped them gain a victory. This was complex war indeed. Hit the libraries if you want to learn more. Hit the theatre if you want to be entertained by it.

"By the time this day closes you will be with the blessed saviour in his glory."
If you are interested in historical dramas or are a Civil War buff, this is a definite must see film for you. Yes it is long but most places will have an intermission so you will have time to get up and stretch your legs, use the facilities and grab a snack. T his film is beautifully written, the battles are compelling and it is profound in the insights it offers us. You will have to pay attention during this film as at times it is difficult to keep up with who is who because so many of the leaders look alike in greys. Other than that you should get you monies worth seeing GODS AND GENERALS.

"An army is power. It is used to co-erce someone."