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Genre: Documentary, TV series, War
Country: United States
Appearances: Shelby Foote, Edwin C. Bearss
Voices: Morgan Freeman, Julie Harris, Garrison Keillor, Jeremy Irons, Colleen Dewhurst, David McCullough, Arthur Miller, George Plimpton, Jason Robards Jr, Christopher Murney, Paul Roebling, Studs Terkel, Sam Waterston
Director: Ken Burns
Run time: 11 hours
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Documentaries just don’t come any bigger or better than those done by Ken Burns. I’m not an American, not really a war buff, and in no way do I identify with those crazy weirdos who dress up in Civil War regalia and re-enact battles down in the South. And yet, when I received a copy of Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary on DVD, I could barely contain my excitement. I held off for a few days before beginning to watch – I had other things to watch, and I knew that once I began watching Civil War, I would be engrossed for several days.
And so I was. For eleven hours of documentary time, over the course of three days, I wanted nothing more than to return to this incredible film. I ate my meals in front of the TV. I skipped my regular workout routine so I could watch the show on my bigger, nicer television. I took no calls. I didn’t feed the kids or let the dogs out to pee. I might be exaggerating a little now.
But there it is – Ken Burns is simply the greatest, and The Civil War is one of his greatest achievements. I don’t know how people decide what is more impressive. His series on baseball was as good as the one on jazz which was as good as this one. They are sweeping, comprehensive and never for a moment dull. For something this big, it truly amazes me that there is no filler. Zero. Eleven hours full of facts, history, and incredible stories. There is no minutia, although there are some little anecdotes that are amusing and necessary.
There is no way, in a brief review like this one, to convey the scope and the achievement that is The Civil War. I could start to point out individual scenes I love, or talk about the voice work of Sam Waterston (Abraham Lincoln) or Morgan Freeman (Frederick Douglass) or Jason Robards (Ulysses S. Grant). And I could tell you all the things I learned about America’s past and slavery and rebellion and Fort Sumter and so forth. But I don’t have eleven hours to type. Suffice it to say, I am now a LOT better at Jeopardy.
And that’s what The Civil War is. A highly entertaining, remarkably complete look back at a major historical event, and one that will keep you riveted for eleven hours. I have just given up an entire weekend to this box set. And, six months from now, I will likely do so again.