Saturday, May 25, 2013

Gods and Generals: A Review

A human life, I think, should be so well rooted in some spot of a native land, where it may get the love of tender kinship for the face of the earth, for the labours men go forth to, for whatever will give that early home a familiar unmistakable difference amidst the future widening of knowledge. The best introduction to astronomy is to think of the nightly heavens as a little lot of stars belonging to one's own homestead.

                                   -George Eliot

 Perhaps you are aware by now of the fact that I am somewhat of a history buff. :)  I love historical dramas about important times in the past.  Last school year my sisters and I were learning about the American Civil war, and so our dear mother had us watch a whole bunch of movies on the subject- for which I am now very grateful- and Gods and Generals was among them.
  Needless to say, I didn't like it at first. Actually, I didn't even expect to like it; I'm not sure why, since I've always had a fascination with history and already had an interest in war movies, but I wasn't expecting much from this one. And after watching it for the first time, I didn't really like it very much. It was a long, boring, three-hour educational movie with hardly any ladies in pretty dresses and no handsome soldiers. Well, I have since learned that as a general pattern, I usually don't like movies very much the first time I watch them. But then if I watch it again a year or so later, I might love it! There are many examples to back up this theory: Jane Eyre, The Young Victoria, King Arthur. So I suppose it's just a weird thing with me. :P
  Anyway. My sister and I were recently listening to this soundtrack, and so moved were we by its beauty that we decided to watch the movie again and see if it was better the second time- and of course I probably don't need to tell you that it was. By degrees. :)
  I am now of the opinion that with the exception of The Blue and the Gray- which of course is the best Civil War epic ever made :)- this is most likely the best Civil War movie I have ever seen. The movie basically follows three men: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Joshua Chamberlain- and three battles towards the beginning of the war: Manassas, Fredericksbug, and Chancellorsville.

Main Characters:

  First of all, you've just got to love Robert Duvall. I tried disliking him. It just doesn't work, people. He is an incredible actor and there is simply no denying it. He was a MUCH better Robert E. Lee than ol' Martin Sheen in Gettysburg- which is the sequel to Gods and Generals, although it was made first and so I guess Gods and Generals is technically a prequel or whatever- and I actually found myself really liking his character. (What did I tell you? It's impossible to dislike him! Or at least, very difficult. :) He wasn't in the movie as much as Joshua Chamberlain and Stonewall Jackson, but I think his was an excellent performance and he did a very nice job in the role of the Confederate general. (But even though he was Robert E. Lee, he still kind of seemed like Gus McCrae of Lonesome Dove- some people are just like that. :)

That's quite a beard. You could set a teacup on that beard.
 While there are three main characters: Robert E. Lee, Joshua Chamberlain, and Stonewall Jackson, General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson is the man the story follows the most, and he's also who the audience gets to know the best. He was a very strong character, a devout Christian, and a very capable and wise leader. (I also love his southern accent. I have a special fondness for southern accents.) The scene where he was shot by his own men in the dark was simply tragic, as was his death scene. His wife Anna, whom he affectionately called "Esposita" was at her best at his deathbed, I thought, and it was very touching when she told him he would "soon be with the blessed Savior". For most of the movie, I wasn't overly fond of her and though she was kind of weird, but I really liked her in that scene. That scene was one of my favourites, because even though it was so sad, he knew he was ready to be with his Savior and he and his wife both accepted it. Another one of my favourite scenes was the morning before the battle of Manassas (I think) when General Jackson was praying in the field.

  "Esposita" there was a little weird and she didn't really say much, but overall she was a kind and loving wife and quite a nice character. I also absolutely loved her dresses! 
"You are the first brigade!"
 This scene gave me chills! I basically loved it whenever General Jackson would give speeches to his men because his words were so powerful and it was just so EPIC!

He looks kind of like a puppy dog. But that's okay.
 Joshua Chamberlain was also a very noble character. Before this, I'd only seen Jeff Daniels in Because of Winn-Dixie, and this was a very different role from what he played in that movie but I thought it was a very good one. I did notice that he changed his voice from the way he usually talks, which was a tiny bit odd, but he's such a good actor that it didn't really make much difference to how well he played the character. We don't see Joshua Chamberlain until almost an hour into the movie, and he's the only northern officer who's really a big character- Winfield Hancock and Ambrose Burnside are shown some but not very much- because the movie is kind of more about the southerners than the northerners. Gettysburg is more centered around him and his men, and so because I've also seen that I feel like I know him more in this movie too. He's also extremely poetic- just before the battle of Fredericksburg, he recites this really long passage of poetry or something- I'm not even sure what it is- about Ceaser, at which point in the movie my mother said, "These guys are really smart."

  I really liked this scene where he first tells his wife (actually, she kind of guesses) that he's going off to war. Al right, maybe it's because she recites a Lovelace poem, but really, I do like the scene! We don't see much of Mrs. Chamberlain because, well, she stayed home like all the rest of the women, and my sister Sadie calls her "his weird wife", but I think she's a very strong and loyal wife and I really like the character.

Other Characters:

One of the few inaccuracies: her hair is down. Arrggggg! And don't even get me started on the other girl's hair.
 A little side story was this family, the Beales from Fredericksburg Virginia. I'm actually not sure how they're all related because we don't really get to know them very well, but I'm pretty sure they were all somehow related because they were always together. Anyway, they were a very nice southern family, and Mrs. Beale was extremely poetic- actually, most everyone in this movie is somewhat poetic!

General Jackson's friendship with Jane (who is Mrs. Beale's granddaughter) was cute....I guess. No really, it was, it was just a little bit weird, but that can easily be got over. Jane was a reasonably cute little girl and they were very sweet together, and SPOILER ALERT! when she died it was indeed very sad. When the doctor came and told General Jackson of her death and the men were talking among themselves, saying they had never seen him cry before this, it was kind of  " a moment", as my sister Sadie put it. One of my most frequently quoted lines is when Jane first approaches General Jackson at Moss Neck Manor on Christmas and says, "General Jackson, do you know what these decorations signify?" Although I admit I do over-exaggerate the accent. :P

  I really liked these men of the "Stonewall" brigade: Lt. Joseph Morrison, Capt. Alexander Pendleton, Capt. James Smith, and..... I don't know the other one's name. They were very nice additions to the story, and I like movies with many characters and so I was glad we were able to get to know some of the soldiers besides just the generals.

 I also really liked the character of Buster Kilrain, the Irishman in Colonel Chamberlain's division. He is much more of a prominent character in Gettysburg and I had actually forgotten how little his role was in this movie- the two movies kind of melded themselves together into my memory so that it was hard to remember where one ended and the other began- but I was still very glad to see him. In Gettysburg he calls Joshua Chamberlain "Colonel darling", which I thought very adorable. And we all know how I love Irishmen. :)

 Colonel Chamberlain's brother Thomas provided some very welcome humour to the movie. He too is more prominent in Gettysburg, which is in general more about Joshua Chamberlain's division and the battle of Gettysburg. In Gettysburg, Colonel Chamberlain is constantly telling him not to "call me Lawrence" (which is his middle name, and apparently the name used by his family because that's what his wife calls him too), which is quite funny. He was clearly the jovial younger brother and was not as steady and prudent as Joshua Chamberlain, but he was altogether rather endearing and probably the most humorous character.

  Probably my favourite scene in the entire movie was the battle where the Irish brigades from both sides were fighting each other. This is the only picture I could find that had any correlation whatsoever to the scene, but it does succeed in showing how sad some of the Irish were to have to fight against their countrymen with whom they had no quarrel. It was especially sad because this Irishman fighting for the south was at first very angry and fighting wildly, but then as the battle progressed and the northern brigade began to lose, it was as if he just couldn't do it anymore and he broke down crying. It was so sad! I had tears in my eyes. Also, the music during the scene was Irish bagpipes, which only added to the tragic effect. It was a very well done battle on the movie maker's parts.

 As you probably know, most war movies have beautiful soundtracks. :) This has actually become one of my favourite soundtracks, because I love fiddle music and bagpipes and the two of them together are just gorgeous. This is my favourite song from the soundtrack, These Brave Irishmen. Sink me if it doesn't bring tears to your eyes!

 Gods and Generals is rated PG-13 for sustained battle sequences, and it also contains some very mild language. It has a lot of long battles- yes, thank you Mary- and so if you don't really have a great interest in history and the Civil War you might find it rather boring. However, I highly recommend it as a very well made and moving historical drama.

 "It is well that war is so terrible, lest we should grow too fond of it."     -Robert E. Lee

Billy Yank and Johnny Reb trading across the Rappahanock.


  1. Oh isn't it so good! I haven't watched that in ages! My brothers LOVED that movie when they were young, still do now. It was a little boring when I was little, I mean I didn't care much for LONG battles, but I would so enjoy it now!


    1. Yes, I know, I didn't like it the first time I watched it last year because I thought it was exceedingly boring, but now I love it! The battles can get a little loooong, but if they made them shorter it might have seemed kind of inaccurate, so I understand. Have you ever seen The Blue and the Gray? That's my favourite Civil War miniseries, and probably my favourite miniseries in general. It's rather obscure, but it's so good! I'd highly recommend it. :)

      ~Emma Jane

  2. No I haven't heard of that, I will have to get it! Thanks! Yes the battles are a little long, but like you said, if you said, if they changed it, it would probably be really unrealistic. But yeah, I loved that movie. When my brothers were little, they did a Civil War play, it's so funny! They have "Slow motion" in it :P They even had the Civil War music going on in the backround on the computer, it was really funny :)


  3. Oh by the way, your most recent follower is me Belle, I was usuing my sister's account that we share, now that I have my own I am refollowing blogs.


  4. I know this is an old post of yours, but I had to comment. I just watched this movie and really liked it!!
    It was just so funny seeing a review of it. It didn't strike me as a movie I would find on the blogs I follow, haha. :)
    I'm so glad to see there was also someone else Extremely Annoyed by the historical inaccuracy the girl's (what's her name?) long and loose hair. :)

  5. I should really watch this...

    1. IT'S SO GOOD! I think I like it even more now than I did when I wrote this. :-) Maybe my second-favorite Civil War movie. (Can't be my first, of course, because that place is reserved for my darling The Blue and the Gray...) ;-D

  6. The best thing about this movie were a handful of performances and the Fredricksburg sequence. Otherwise, this was a bust. "GETTYSBURG" was ten times better.

    1. Really? I liked Gettysburg, but not nearly as much as this one. (Although, I admit, that's partly because Martin Sheen's got nothing on Robert Duvall. His Robert E. Lee left much to be desired.)

  7. Loved the review!
    I wanted to let you know, in case you were interested, some facts about the female characters. I am doing research on Fredericksburg for my second historical novel (first one takes place in Gettysburg) that I am writing and that is how I came upon this blog.
    While I love this movie, there are quite a few inaccuracies, mainly about the women. The picture you have shows (from left to right) Catherine (Kate) Corbin, Bertie Corbin, and Jane Beale. What bugs me about this movie is that Kate is one of my main characters and I have yet to find an actual connection to her and the Beale family. She, Bertie and Janie (Bertie's daughter) lived at Moss Neck manor, which is where Jackson stayed that winter. Jane Beale and family lived in town, which is shown in GaG. I think the producers just wanted some female characters, which was fine with me, they just took some fictional liberties on the relationship between them all. And Kate Corbin did marry the cutie Sandie Pendleton.
    I could ramble on about this, but I will stop. Feel free to e-mail me at if you have any other questions. Have a great day!


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