January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

As you should be able to gather from the film’s title, Gettysburg is based on the real events that surrounded one of the most important battles of the Civil War. As is the case with all historic films, this one takes some liberties at times, but on the whole, the movie is pretty close to the records on the events. The battle might have only lasted a short while in the grand scheme of life, but it took a lot of time to amass, took the lives of many people, and changed the course of an entire nation in the process. In the bloodiest American war of all time, Gettysburg was the most brutal and blood soaked episode of them all. This movie tells the stories of the men who waged war in this battle, as well as the various smaller events that made this large scale movement happen. This is all real and a lot of men fell while fighting it, this is the story of Gettysburg.

This film has been on most wanted lists since our beloved format first showed up, but the limits of the technology have kept it off the shiny discs until now. The film alone clocks in over two hundred and fifty minutes, so that made it impossible to offer on a single disc. But now Warner has released Gettysburg on one disc, along with a nice selection of bonus materials. I am no fan of dual layered, double sided discs (DVD-18), but I have to admit, this is a title that makes good use of the technology. I would have liked a double disc edition instead, but I am just pleased to have the film and some terrific extras, so I won’t complain much. As far as the movie goes, I like epics a lot and Gettysburg is a wonderful example of how to make a good epic film. A cast loaded with talent, fantastic production values, and a wide scope all pitch in to make this a top notch cinematic effort. I love the costumes, props, and locations, all of which ensure a realistic texture for the movie, which is vital for all period pieces. The battle sequences are out of this world, very kinetic and authentic, which is again very important to a picture of this sort. This one might have a very long running time, but little time is wasted and you will never become bored with this effort. I give this excellent disc and film my highest recommendation, a rental or purchase will make for a wise investment.

As is the case with epic films, Gettysburg sports a cast of thousands, but of course, the number of prime roles is much lower. The masses of extras do their turns though, so I want to give their work a mention, as the sheer numbers add a lot to those pivotal battle scenes. The cast features a lot of good performances, but I have to give the edge to Jeff Daniels and Tom Berenger, who are outstanding within their roles here. Daniels (Pleasantville, Dumb and Dumber) isn’t always praised for his dramatic work, but in this picture he is able to prove how versatile he is. He is able to pull off this very serious part with no real problems, which is a testament to his skills in front of the camera. I’ve always been a fan of Berenger’s work, but he also has had some troubles in becoming a premier talent. Here Berenger (Last of the Dogmen, Major League) once again shows he can hang in with the best, while bringing his character to life in fine form. The cast here also includes Cooper Huckabee (Bad Girls, Space Cowboys), Stephen Lang (Tall Tale, Fire Down Below), Richard Jordan (Dune, Solarbabies), Andrew Prine (Chisum, Kiss Her Goodbye), and Martin Sheen (Wall Street, Apocalypse Now).

Video: How does it look?

Gettysburg is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I was very pleased to find a clean source print has been used, which means the image looks sharp and crisp at all times. I will say though, the image is on the soft side, but not to an extreme degree and it doesn’t throw off the picture much. The colors look rich and bold, but never bleed in the least and flesh tones come off as natural as well. No problems with the contrast either, as detail seems good and black levels are dead on. I saw some instances of minor compression flaws, but nothing to be concerned with in the end. I do wish the picture were a little more detailed, but this is still an above average overall transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

This disc includes a new Dolby Digital 5.0 mix and man, is this one powerful audio experience. I knew the battle sequences would sound good, but this sounds much better than I expected and I couldn’t be more pleased. The surrounds are alive at all times in those scenes, with cannons and gunfire rocking the speakers in serious fashion. But these powerful effects don’t overshadow those with less impact, all of them come across in fine form. The battle sequences aren’t the only ones that sound good though, as even the more conservative scenes have a rich audio depth to them. The film’s excellent musical score comes through very well here, using the surrounds to immerse the viewer in the atmosphere. Also in tow is the dialogue, which is crisp and clean at all times. I knew this would be a good one, but it exceeded my expectations in all respects. This disc also houses a French 2.0 surround track, as well as subtitles in French and English.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc has some nice bonus materials as well, such as a fifty minute behind the scenes documentary on this film. This is a broad look at the movie’s production and is not the usual fluff piece, this is an in depth look at how Gettysburg was created. I wish all documentaries could be this comprehensive, I was very taken in by this great look behind the scenes. If you want to learn more about the real Gettysburg, you can watch the thirty minute piece The Battle of Gettysburg, which is also packed onto this disc. This is a very nice companion piece to the film and I am thrilled that Warner has placed it on this release. This disc also includes the film’s theatrical trailer, television spots, and a nice selection of cast & crew interviews. An audio commentary with a director Ronald Maxwell, cinematographer Kees Van Oostrum, author James McPherson, and military historian Craig Symonds, but it does not run the length of the picture. In fact, there are a lot of gaps, but when they do speak, they have a lot of information to share. I wish this was a fuller track of course, but it is still more than worth a spin.

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