Review: Andersonville (1996)


An area of the Civil War not often explored!

Written By: David W. Rintels
Directed By: John Frankenheimer

I bought Andersonville on DVD a few years ago because I had a project to do for my speech class and I had chosen the Andersonville prison as my subject. I found it in the three dollar DVD bin, so how bad of a pick-up could it be? My speech class teacher was a major hottie, she baked cookies all the time and she would give us smiley face stickers on our tests. In short, she was awesome! Yet I ended up hating her class for a short amount of time because I felt that it forced me to sit through this movie in an attempt to find a lone five to fifteen second clip. Fast forward to the present day and I have decided to once again give Andersonville a shot, I do have an interest in the Civil War and still own the DVD, plus maybe a second viewing will turn out differently?

I was five minutes into Andersonville when I realized this viewing wouldn’t be any different than the last. All the problems I had with the original viewing were still present, and even though I had long forgotten what they were my brain was flooded with all those bad memories as the seconds ticked by. And boy, did they ever tick by as slowly as possible, I swear, at some point I believe time collapsed in on itself and this movie only ran a shade over two and a half hours in the real world while running for seventeen hours in the collapsed universe. My biggest gripe with the film was how unbearably long it felt because it was so boring, so unremittingly boring.

There are movies that like to think they are big, and then there is Andersonville. Every moment is big and emotional and of the greatest importance. Men can’t even step out of their tents to look at the sky without the camera zooming in on them while dramatic music plays in the background. Every second of Andersonville plays for emotional resonance, and yet it never makes any sort of impact because it feels incredibly fake.

There were other factors I could go into, the manipulative decision to make the Raiders as Southern as possible so the audience will forget that they are also Union soldiers, the fact that it feels like two different movies jammed together, or that the entire trial is completely pointless and serves no purpose whatsoever. I had a lot of problems with this movie, but at the very least it did have good art design and the sets were very authentic looking. That is about all I have to say of a positive nature and that is never a good thing.

Maybe some serious Civil War buffs will like Andersonville, but I couldn’t get past its manufactured and fake feel or how boring it managed to be. I certainly can’t recommend it to anyone, if you want a good Ted Turner based Civil War film then check out Gettysburg, but skip Andersonville, not even a hot speech teacher can save it!




4 responses to “Review: Andersonville (1996)

  1. Yome McKnight

    You realize the picture of the tombstones you have is of “Raiders” a group of men who attacked other prisoners, who were tried and hung for their crimes against their fellow prisoners. They were dishonorably discharged, and don’t get individual flags on Memorial Day.

  2. Indeed I do, it’s a major point in the film and since I was unable to capture screenshots at the time I wrote this review I felt it was a fitting image for the film.

  3. Yome McKnight

    I’m currently writing a research paper on Andersonville, and (though it’s not a movie) if you want a good view on Andersonville from the point of a prisoner there check out “Eye of the Storm.” It has journal entries from a prisoner and you really get a sense of how bad it was. You don’t have to just thought I’d recommend it.

  4. Thanks for the recommendation.

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