Gettysburg, Ronald F. Maxwell's re-telling of four hot days during the summer of 1863 (based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara), is a spectacle that gathers power and momentum with every scene. Originally slated as a TNT mini-series, Gettysburg received the go-ahead for a theatrical run when Ted Turner realized the quality of the material he had on his hands. Those who are not daunted by the running time (two-hundred thirty-four minutes, easily the longest general release motion picture in a long while) and decide to see the film on the big-screen will find their choice well rewarded.
The film is divided into two parts, with an intermission in between (the length of the intermission varies from ten minutes to twenty-five minutes, depending on theater management). The first section, which begins on June 30, 1863 (the day before the start of the battle of Gettysburg) and ends during the day of July 2 with Col.
Joshua Chamberlain's legendary defense of Little Round Top, is approximately two hours and twenty minutes long. The second part, which takes up the remaining 1:55, concentrates primarily on July 3 and the disastrous charge of Maj. Gen. George Pickett and 15,000 members of the Confederate Army against the entrenched Union position atop Cemetery Ridge.
Over 50,000 were killed or wounded during this pivotal battle of the Civil War, and Gettysburg takes pains to breathe life and logic into the reasons for this. Yet it does far more than that. Rather than functioning as a text book come to life, the film uses its actors to flesh out characters from history, giving not only personalities to those on both sides of the struggle, but believable causes as well. We are presented with the rare opportunity to see...