The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
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Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024

‘Gods and Generals’ share the screen

Director returns to familiar subject
 Gods and Generals share the screen
‘Gods and Generals’ share the screen

‘Gods and Generals’ share the screen

As you sit in your theater seat and notice the two rows in front of you are filled with Civil War re-enactors, you may begin to realize this is no ordinary movie.

Then again, the war that Gods and Generals portrays is the American Civil War – no ordinary war.

Director Ronald Maxwell returns with the prequel to his critically acclaimed 1993 film Gettysburg.

Gettysburg was a Civil War drama adapted from Jeff Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels. His son, Michael Shaara, elaborated on his father’s work with the publication of his bestseller that the movie is named after.

Completely filmed on location, Gods and Generals charts the early days of the Civil War. The movie runs three hours and thirty minutes with a PG-13 rating due to the sustained battle sequences.

Unlike Gettysburg that gives equal treatment to the Northern and Southern forces, Gods and Generals focuses more on the South, detailing the rise and fall of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, played by Stephan Lang.

He and a host of history’s famous militarists lead the beginning of America’s bloodiest conflict.

Maxwell takes steps to ensure each detail of the film coincides with history. The opening credits float across the screen with the flags of the Confederacy waving in the background, and brief subtitles identify each officer and each battleground.

The film depicts Stonewall Jackson – his life, family and the adoration and respect he earns from the men under his command.

The small side stories of men leaving behind families, sons leaving fathers and the like bring the audience to terms that this was a war fought by everyone – not just soldiers.

The plot also highlights the early military lives of brothers Lt. Col. Lawrence and Sgt. Tom Chamberlain as they train to fight for the Union.

The script includes many prayers and Bible verses as the men turn to God for comfort and support. Jackson constantly petitions to Heaven for guidance and the strength to lead his men.

In one scene, one of Jackson’s dying generals reminds him that he isn’t a believer. “Then I will believe for the both of us,” Jackson tells him on his deathbed.

The Biblical references reiterate an underlying theme that all matters are not in the hands of men but the One they believe in.

The battle sequences, though long and tedious at times, are phenomenal. They capture the realistic conflicts well – both their glory and horror. Canons roar, muskets fire, and men struggle across the battlefield, a myriad of uniform colors fighting under one flag.

Gods and Generals is a film to show that war, though sometimes necessary, is never a logical choice.

One of the men in the Chamberlains’ command, the Irish Sgt. “Buster” Kirlain, says that he came to America with friends in hopes to escape persecution. Now he’s fighting on one side, and his friends are on the other.

Maxwell displays the Civil War’s irony best in a scene involving two strangers – a Confederate soldier and a Union soldier.

They cross a river to share a friendly tobacco pipe and a hot cup of coffee. No words are exchanged between the two men as they enjoy a moment of simple pleasures before returning to their respective sides.

Gods and Generals beautifully paints the Civil War as the glamorous tragedy that changed our nation forever. Composer Randy Edelman’s sweeping soundtrack fits the personality of the film to the T, from the tragic battle scenes to the light-hearted humorous moments among the enlisted men.

Edelman’s name is associated with music from an extensive list of big-ticket movies including Dragonheart, XXX, The Mask and, of course, Gettysburg.

Several Gettysburg actors return for Maxwell’s latest project. Jeff Daniels and C. Thomas Howell return to portray their roles as the Chamberlain brothers.

Stephan Lang trades his Gettysburg character of General George E. Pickett for the lead of General Stonewall Jackson.

Kevin Conway resumes his part as Buster Kirlain. And Brian Mallon returns as Brig. Gen Winfield Scott Hancock.

Other credits include Chris Conner as John Wilkes Booth, Mira Sorvino as Fanny Chamberlain, and Robert Duvall as Robert E. Lee.

‘Gods and Generals’ share the screen

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