Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gettysburg Documentary Review

I looked forward to the documentary Gettysburg for the History Channel because it was produced by Tony and Ridley Scott. Both are fine directors and I've especially enjoyed much of Rideley's work such Blade Runner and Alien. Both bring strong visuals to their movies.

What the Scotts bring to the documentary is that cinematic style. Professional actors were brought in to perform the roles of actual participants in the battle of Gettysburg. Director Adrian Moat pulls no punches in showing the horror of the Civil War. From hand to hand combat to troops getting mowed down by artillery to field hospitals doing amputations, this is the Civil War at its most realistic depiction for a documentary. The use of maps and CGI to elucidate the battlefield is also much appreciated. The obligatory talking heads also help explain the important events of the battle.

Writer Richard Bedser's script is not just about the battle itself. It follows the personal lives of the soldiers who fought this battle. And that is one of the weaknesses of this documentary. Too much time is given to the personal stories of the less important figures of Gettysburg. This creates a time problem that causes slights to bigger events or more important figures in the battle. For example, Union colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's heroic defense of Little Round Top is not even mentioned. Perhaps this was done to avoid comparisons to Ken Burn's documentary The Civil War (1990) or the movie Gettysburg (1993). Still it's a big omission.

It's a welcome sight to see the Scotts producing historical documentaries. But more care must be placed focusing on the important events rather than spending too much time on personal stories. The grade for Gettysburg is B.


Paul A said...

Who was the tecnical advisor - Sarah Palin?

Unknown said...

Really informative read.
Allan Jones, Tall Betsy