Available on DVD: December 2, 2014 from Arc Entertainment. 96 min. David Arquette, Luke Benward, Max Lloyd-Jones, Zach Roerig, Lauren Holly, Mary Mouser, Nolan Gould, Jason Isaacs, Tom Skerritt. Directed by Sean McNamara.
FILM SYNOPSIS: Based on a true story of the American Civil War, this film shows the bravery of a group of teenage cadets who were called upon to defend the Shenandoah Valley against General Grant’s (Tom Skerritt) Union forces, under the leadership of Captain Henry DuPont (David Arquette). Two hundred and seventy-four young men from the Virginia Military Institute are ordered to provide support for the more seasoned troops in the strategic battle. When the Confederate soldiers are outnumbered, General John C. Breckenridge (John Isaacs) makes the agonizing decision to send the young men into the melee. A band of seven friends, each with their own set of values and feelings about the war, soon come together as one when faced with the most shattering moments of their young lives.
PREVIEW REVIEW: Done from what seems like the perspective of a Southern patriot, where General Grant is the barbarian, this low-budgeted Civil War drama plays out like a made-for-TV film. The opening hijinks at the military academy falls flat, the romance between one of the cadets and the girl next door is perfunctory, and the apologetic tone of a Southern military leader is questionable.
Whatever the parable of the film may be, it ultimately shows the power of the medium. Years ago I saw a well-made foreign film called Das Boot, about a German U-boat on a mission during WWII. At one point, when they were about to be detected by the allies, the audience found itself rooting for their escape. This despite the fact that they were a German submarine crew at war with America. It is a powerful medium, indeed.
In Field of Lost Shoes, taken from an actual battle, the filmmakers are attempting to connect the audience with soldiers from the South. Though there are a few scenes depicting their own conflict with war, during the film’s climax we are actually rooting for a Southern rebel victory.
It’s true, General Grant was brutal. He knew the purpose of war and took drastic measures in bringing it to an end. The South paid a severe and lasting price for an ideology not built on a way of life so much as an evil premise. This is not given much acknowledgment other than a single shot of shoeless confederates in a muddy battle.
PG-13 (I caught one profane use of God’s name and one misuse of Jesus’ name; we see a slave auction and some mistreatment of slaves, including the beating of a black man).
DVD Alternative: The Civil War. This quintessential examination of the War Between the States made by acclaimed documentarian, Ken Burns, is a moving, learning experience about the foibles and nobility of the human spirit. It takes several nights to consume the entire program, but well worth the effort.