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Adrian Moat
Josh Artis, Anton Blake, Deborah Lettner, Richard Lothian, Johnny Ray Meeks, André Sogliuzzo
Writing Credits:
Ed Fields, Richard Bedser

From executive producers Tony Scott and Ridley Scott comes a special about the battle that changed the course of the Civil War and the future of the Nation ... "The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." Abraham Lincoln's iconic Gettysburg Address frames this epic, feature-length History special, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Gettysburg looks at this battle from a visceral new perspective, that of the everyday soldiers who fought there, in a confrontation that changed the fate of our nation. Stripping away the romanticized veneer of past treatments, this special conveys new information and honors the sacrifice of those, both North and South, who fought and died there. Raw, immersive and emotional, this groundbreaking event puts viewers inside the three-day battle where over 50,000 men paid the ultimate price.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 86 min.
Price: $34.95
Release Date: 9/20/2011

• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

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Gettysburg [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 2, 2011)

Because 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, we’ve seen an abundance of related media out this year. Earlier I checked out a 1993 feature film about the War’s most famous battle, and now I’ll take a look at Gettysburg, a 2011 History Channel documentary.

Executive produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, Gettysburg provides a more active than usual documentary. Much of the material shows reenactments of the battles; indeed, a disclaimer warns that the show will include some graphic footage. Occasionally we hear quotes from the writings of Civil War participants/witnesses.

In addition to the reenacted material, we see some illustrative elements – like graphics to depict the impact of the period’s ballistics – and “talking head” interviews with experts. We hear from Museum of Civil War Medicine executive director George Wunderlich, Civil War Institute director Dr. Peter Carmichael, Civil War Trust historian Garry Adelman, US Army War College instructor Captain Steven Knott, The Crucible of the Civil War author Dr. Edward Ayers, African American Civil War Museum curator Hari Jones, 19th Century weaponry expert Sean Rich, and Battle Cry of Freedom author James McPherson.

Given the prevalence of the reenactment footage, Gettysburg occasionally feels more like a standard dramatic film than a documentary. It definitely relies much more on show than tell; though we get nearly-constant narration of some sort, the use of the actors makes the experience much more visceral.

But I’m not sure that’s a good thing – at least not in this case. Gettysburg tries so hard to be action-packed that it tends to become a bit overwhelming. It features lots of slow-motion shots, odd angles, strange shot composition and fast editing. Occasionally it really feels like a 90-minute music video; the visuals jump and flit in a way that may seem dynamic to some but just comes across as tiring to me.

And the narrative follows suit – to a degree, at least. Gettysburg tries to cover a lot of territory, so it doesn’t provide a particularly concise A-B-C take on events. Maybe I’m simply too old, slow and feeble-minded to handle this, but I must admit I’d prefer a straight chronological look at events. We don’t need offshoots to discuss the status of battlefield medicine or the effects on the folks back home.

Those choices would work in a standard dramatic film, where one expects a stronger emphasis on characters than on story, but they distract here. Whenever the show leaves the battle to talk about some tangential topic, it becomes tough to get back on task. This leaves us with a somewhat muddled view of what actually happened in July 1863.

None of this makes Gettysburg a bad documentary, though. Indeed, the more active/visceral visuals will probably give it appeal to folks who don’t care for the standard documentary construct; if you think these kinds of programs usually seem stodgy or stiff, than you’re more likely to dig into this one.

As for me, however, I kind of like good old stodgy and stiff, though I prefer to view those programs as concise, logical and thoughtful. You’ll learn a reasonable amount about the battles of Gettysburg here, but you might get a headache from the hyperactive visual techniques.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus D+

Gettysburg appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The documentary offered consistently good visuals.

Sharpness was fine. Whenever we saw softness, it tended to result from photography choices. This meant more than a few vaguely ill-defined shots, but they fit the show’s visual design and didn’t distract. Overall delineation seemed positive, and I noticed no issues related to jagged edges, shimmering or edge haloes. No source defects marred the presentation, either.

One wouldn’t anticipate bold colors from a Civil War documentary, and Gettysburg went with a pretty standard nearly sepia look. Actually, it seemed more bleached/desaturated than anything else, as it opted for a fairly sandy appearance. While I can’t say I was wild about the stylistic choices, I thought the Blu-ray represented them well. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows looked clear and distinctive. This was a solid representation of the source.

Similar thoughts greeted the documentary’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. With nearly constant battle on display, the soundfield boasted a high level of activity. Action flew all around the spectrum and fleshed out the environment well. It remained moderately oriented toward the front, though; we found pretty good surround usage, but the track betrayed its roots with a level of ambition below what you’d find in a big-budget feature film. Still, the audio created a much better sense of place than one would anticipate from a History Channel program.

Audio quality seemed solid. Dialogue was always natural and concise, and though the score tended to get a bit buried in the mix, the music seemed reasonably full and lively. Effects fared quite nicely. Those elements offered strong heft and power throughout the show. I felt pleased with this consistently involving and active track.

Don’t expect much in the way of extras here. The set includes a DVD Copy of Gettysburg - and that’s it!

Is there anything new left to discuss about the events of July 1863? Probably not, but Gettysburg tries to reinvent that wheel anyway, as it features an active action-oriented presentation. This makes it a bit overwhelming at times, as the hyperactive style tends to seem over the top and distracting. The Blu-ray comes with very good picture and audio but it lacks real supplements. Gettysburg provides a decent documentary but the jerky visuals leave me dissatisfied.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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