A sweeping epic charting the early years of the Civil War and how campaigns unfolded from Manassas to the Battle of Fredericksburg, this prequel to the film Gettysburg explores the motivations of the combatants and examines the lives of those who waited at home.
Packaging for the director's cut is handsome and impressive, with a lengthy essay by director Ronald F. Maxwell, bios of various characters and the actors who portray them, and more. But the big news for Gods and Generals
fans, and Civil War aficionados in general, is the inclusion of a full hour's worth of previously unseen footage, bringing the total running time to a hefty 280 minutes. Detailed by Maxwell in a new introduction accompanying this release, the additions include the lead-up to the battle of Antietam and the battle itself (20,000 men died there, the biggest single-day toll of the entire war); a variety of scenes involving Shakespearean actor John Wilkes Booth, including one in which he turns down an opportunity to meet Abraham Lincoln, whom he would later assassinate; and a few bits of camp life with brothers Joshua and Thomas Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels and C. Thomas Howell, respectively).
Also new are two commentary tracks, one with Maxwell and executive producer Ted Turner and one with the director and two historical advisers. Three featurettes, ranging from 14 to 22 minutes long, were part of the original video release in 2003. They include a portrait of the ultra-devout Confederate general Stonewall Jackson; details of the lengths to which the filmmakers went to make the film as authentic as possible; and "Journey to the Past," a making-of piece in which Maxwell and actress Donzaleigh Abernathy, daughter of civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy, discuss the issue of slavery and its depiction in the movie. --Sam Graham
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