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  • grahamsj35 September 2000
    Warning: Spoilers
    I believe that the film itself was well executed. The cinematography, setting, costuming and scripting were all well done. The casting of Armande Assante as Capt. Dixon was an error. He tried, but was never able to pull the role off. The scenes inside the submarine were the most powerful, giving a real feeling of how claustrophobic it must have really been. The performances by the remainder of the cast were adequate, but none stands out except possibly Sebastian Roche as Collins, the Irishman. The film supposedly stuck to all historical information pretty closely, so I would assume that this was more or less factual. Overall, an entertaining film, one that I enjoyed but am glad I didn't have to pay much to see. I give it a 7.
  • This is a made for TV dramatization of a true event in history, specifically the story of the Confederate efforts to develop a submersible boat during the civil war. The story opens in Charleston S.C. during the seize and naval blockade of that city by Federal forces. The Confederates were attempting to develop a submarine with a torpedo to be used as a weapon to break the blockade. This is the story of the successes and failures of that effort and follows the efforts of the crew in the development of the submarine (made from a converted boiler) and its ultimate deployment into battle.

    The story is a fascinating piece of history; an event that clearly changed the course of naval warfare. Director John Gray did a good job in his portrayal of civil war Charleston during the seize, with citizens attempting to cope and go about the business of day to day living despite the daily bombardment. The scenes inside the boat were particularly well done, giving the viewer a good sense of the claustrophobic quarters in which they had to operate.

    Unfortunately, the selection of Armand Assante for the lead character, Lt. Dixon was a mistake. Assante, the consummate tough guy, can be a powerful actor when placed in a suitable role for his skills like ‘Gotti'. But he does not have much range outside that type. In this film he was brittle in his portrayal, playing this role in typical tough guy fashion when the character required more subtlety and complexity. Also, his attempt at a southern accent was abysmal. No matter how he tried, he always sounded like a New York gangster.

    Donald Sutherland was good as General Beauregard, but it was a minor role. The bright spot among the cast was Sebastian Roche who played Collins, the tempestuous Irishman. His cockiness and false bravado belied a vulnerable and frightened soul and he played it perfectly. His portrayal of panic during an oxygen deprivation drill was riveting.

    I gave this film an 8, despite the miscasting of Assante. It was an entertaining drama with plenty of meat to keep most viewers interested and engaged.
  • I have been a student of the Civil War for a great while and this movie moved me deeply. Although artistic license was no doubt taken with the personalities of the individual characters this movie is historically accurate. It was a very powerful production which should be shown in history classes in which the Civil War will be studied. Although the story of the C.S.S. Hunley is a small chapter in the Civil War it is a story which clearly shows the bravery and determination of the confederate soldier. Though I do take exception to the confederate cause I admire the men who died in the Hunley greatly.
  • westie-411 November 2001
    Have you ever channel surfed when theres nothing in particuliar you want to watch,and you stop on a channel where theres a film starting.You dont bother to check the T.V guide,but you look at the synopsis,find it mildly interesting so you give it a try,and then after 15 minutes of viewing you become so engrossed that you forget that you were bored only a short time ago and you are now enjoying a film youve never even heard of before.This is such a film.I came across it one cold Sunday afternoon on cable,it drew me in immediately,quite a surprise for me as i normally avoid made for T.V movies,but sometimes you come across a product that has an interesting and unique story,a few old but well respected actors(Amand Assante and Donald Sutherland)and most surprising of all for a T.V movie,a lavish expensive looking feel and fantastic effects.The story,which is based on a true event,is set during the American civil war and centres on the confederate armies attempt to take the town of Charleston.The rebels fight back with a new invention,the first attempt at making a submarine that if successful would dive below an enemy ship with a torpedo in tow and sink the ship.The scenes involving the crew of seven men cramped inside the tiny banged together prototype sub are genuinely claustrophobic,and you can almost feel the tension and confinement they undoubtedly suffer.The crew themselves are a collection of intrigueing personalities that you will warm too whilst watching the film,and it is that coupled with the fact that this a true story which make the ending that much more harrowing.A true gem of a film.
  • Like "Gettysburg", "The Hunley" , is largely factual, shows incredible bravery, and has it's touching moments. The engineering feat alone is totally amazing for 1864. Even when the North gets word of the Hunley, their defense of nets and chains is overcome by a brilliant adjustment to the method of delivering the Hunley's torpedo. Much like Jeff Daniels wonderful performance in "Gettysburg", Armand Assante is terrific as the submarine project leader. Donald Sutherland is good, but more in the shadows, as General Beauregard. This movie is not easy to watch without generating emotions driven by the crew's bravery. Highly, highly recommended. - MERK
  • The subject matter was a fascinating surprise, but a bigger surprise was how emotionally involved and moved I was watching this picture. It is an exciting, thrill a minute, rousing and deeply moving experience. The performances are exceptional and the story is a remarkable tale of courage and sacrifice. The action scenes (which are many) kept me on the edge of my seat, I don't think I've ever seen a production this spectacular on television before. This is a big screen epic for the small screen. Congratulations to TNT for bringing this less known but very important part of history to television
  • If you're an American Civil War buff (or not) you should see this film. The sets, uniforms etc are superb for a TV movie - better than some huge budget films - how did they do it! The submarine appears to an actual working metal sub - it probably isn't but that's the power of good set design. The drama is also enthralling, some very disturbing scenes you won't forget for a while - this was a brutal war and nothing is papered over to protect the viewer. The acting is what stands out though, Armand Assante is a revelation as the haunted Confederate Officer going through the motions of the war, hardly focusing on what he's fighting for anymore. Donald Sutherland adds weight of course, but the lesser known actors are the real surprise. At times you actually think you're there in 1864, it grips you and keeps you there until the end. My only criticism - where Oh where is the DVD!!?
  • Armand Assante delivers big time, as the Confederates' Lt. Dixon of the C.S.S. Hunley. In reality, Lt. Dixon was much younger than the actor playing him. However, the weathered look and demeanor of Assante makes him a believable leader, much like Laurence Harvey's portrayal of Col. William B. Travis in John Wayne's epic, "The Alamo."

    Donald Sutherland's performance should also be commended. General Beauregard, as portrayed by Sutherland was well done. More importantly, it occurs to this author that Sutherland has the penchant for going out on a limb and playing complex figures in history and myth.

    While the film details many historical accuracies, it is safe to say that the depictions of the crew are fiction. The good news is that they are nicely done. Character development, which seems to be in scarce supply these days is fulfilled in, "The Hunley." To the man, I couldn't think of a single character, that I either disliked, or felt wasn't properly placed in the film. In fact, they were so different, with their own peculiarities, that I felt a kinship to each of them. I guess my favorite was the happily married man who was, according to Dixon, "dumb as a post," but "loyal." Honest men indeed.

    The special effects are somewhat disappointing. First, it is clear that some of the action shots are less than cutting edge. This was obviously due to budgetary constraints. The good news is that the overly done Hollywood type explosions are happily missing. It is tiring to see 1990's style pyrotechnics in the middle of the 19th century. If you doubt me, go see, "Zorro '98." Big budgets do not equal great effects.

    Finally, I thought it was original of the film makers in the awakening sequence which occurs at the end of the movie. This could have really gone south, if not done right. It is a moving experience for the viewer.

    All in all, a fine movie. I will have it in my library.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Quite simply, "The Hunley" is the best made for television movie of all time. The film accurately depicts a moment in history, (1864), when Charleston, SC. was being savagely bombarded by the Federal navy. Of course, I'm quite certain that individual aspects of the film have been purposely embellished to make an already interesting story even more captivating. For example, the scene involving the bombardment of the "open air" orchestral recital was very stirring, but in actuality may have never occurred. I also wonder if the fascinating conversations between Lt. Dixon and General Beauregard ever transpired. While General Beauregard did have oversight over the Hunley mission, I wonder if there was any point in time when he seriously considered scuttling the project, given the dire straits of the Confederacy at that point in the war. It's all open to conjecture. What we do know is that the men aboard the Hunley served valiantly, and gave the ultimate sacrifice for Southern Independence.

    I thought that overall the casting was creditable. Armand Assante was fine as Lt. Dixon, and the rest of the crew was capable, although I did have concerns with Seaman Collins' brogue which came off as stilted and forced. Donald Sutherland does not look very much like P.G.T. Beauregard, but I believe that he captured the essence of the man, particularly in his derision of President Davis, who he unflattering labels "a politician".

    "The Hunley" is an outstanding movie. You do not need to be a history buff to enjoy its drama. It is well acted, with a good script and excellent cinematography. Like another WBTS film, Glory, The Hunley has an important story to tell of courage, loyalty, and service.
  • bogus00022 July 1999
    Really, one of the best movies EVER made for television. It's on my top ten favorites. Possibly my all time favorite. There were just so many drawing points. Performances are powerful. Sets are intriguing. The story is unique, and the direction sucks you into the movie.

    It's a tragedy and a triumph. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
  • GaGal21 June 1999
    I saw the Premiere of this movie last weekend, and it is a very INTENSE movie, it is a historically accurate movie, and well worth watching. Armand Assante was made for this part it seems. He portrayed Lt. George Dixon, who was the last "ship's captain", and he did the part very well. In my opinion, everyone should see this one!!
  • magellan33315 January 2001
    This is a great movie. I rented it on video and was amazed how well this made for television movie was executed. Donald Sutherland played his part very well, but the directors/writers did not have to rely on him to carry it. This movie is a must see for any history buffs or lovers of submarine flicks. A very good movie.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The best submarine movie that we could think of is of course Wolfgang Peterson's Das Boot and from then on, whenever we think about submarine movie, Das Boot comes to mind. But another part of history that is almost forgotten is the CSS Hunley. Most people dismiss the notion we all know they didn't make it, but how did it get to be there is another story.

    When TNT first aired the movie on television, I was interested in the movie, but missed the day it was showing and rented out the video. The Civil War was the first war that would use science and wacky technology in order to bring either side to its knee. The guns have now changed, the use of railroads was needed, and cannons now are larger. Even the warships now have moved into the ironclad era and from there the Hunley was born.

    The movie takes place after Captain Hunley dies in his submarine and this is where George Dixon takes over as commander. Armand Assante did a great job portraying as Dixon and didn't have that look from Judge Dredd or anything, but played the part very well. Donald Sutherland who played the General also did a great job which although people see him as lax, but he played as a general that just didn't want to continue on. The other cast also played well.

    Historically, the movie is based on a true story with some parts being fiction and others having to be filled in as a guessing game because we hardly know anything about these men. Even we don't even know what they look like and TNT did a fantastic job in portraying them as best as we can according to photos and diaries from the history books.

    This movie is not an action movie, but more of a drama and tragedy during the Civil War. Families lost their sons or fathers while other suffer from other causes in the war. No doubt this movie stands next to Glory in terms of presenting a story of how being next to the Hunley may have felt like.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film includes a powerful performance by Armand Assante, easily matching the undeniably good performance of Donald Sutherland. It includes an excellent portrayal of Civil War Charleston and the desperate situation of the Confederacy in 1864. Out of that desperation came the impetus to put a (very) basic submarine into service. All in all a powerful film about desperate people volunteering for a dangerous duty they believed in.

    I strongly recommend this film to Civil War and general military history buffs. It will breathe life into your understanding of the Civil War period. Where is the DVD!
  • dk28 March 2001
    With that "Made for TV" stigma, I had low expectations for this flick. Instead, I thought it was extremely good, and had the feeling of an accurate historical representation. However, the Irishman's reference to the Englishman as "you Tea Bag" is wrong... Thomas Sullivan of N.Y. developed the concept of tea in a bag in 1908. Small matter.
  • This is a wonderful film about the Hunley. The producers and directors make the movie come so alive. I had never even knew about the sub before this film and it made me feel like I was really there during the US Civil War. It was a great historical film and would recommend it to anyone.
  • bc_diva29 August 2000
    Even the initial moments of this movie had me in awe. What a way to start. The cinematography was awesome, and practically indescribable. The sheer hopelessness of being trapped in such a confine was beautifully captured, and therefore, this movie is definitely worth a watch.
  • The C.S.S. Hunley sank the U.S.S. Housatonic in February 1864, the first American submarine to sink an enemy ship. In August of 2000, I saw it return to Charleston Harbor, after it rested 136 years on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. The TNT movie Hunley is a riveting, moving, largely true account of the sinking of the blockading ship, and of the training and trials of the crew of the Hunley. Sutherland is at his best, in a role like that in another made-for-cable film, the great, and also underrated, Citizen X. Armand Assante is magnificent. Watch for him to break that glass in his hand, and watch for him to drop under the bathwater, thinking of his wife who perished in a boat accident. This is one film I have seen many times, and one film I will see many times again. The scene of the bombardment of innocent civilians at the music recital, and the stirring recovery of the crowd's morale by Lt. Dixon (Armand Assante) as he, unable to sing himself, provokes the first violinist to start "Bonnie Blue Flag," will stir the blood of any true patriot, or at least any true Southerner. Check www.Hunley.org for news on the excavation of the Hunley-- last week they found Corporal Carlson's shell jacket buttons; next week they may find Lieutenant Dixon's $20 gold piece.
  • bidwid5 January 2003
    I am not a real history buff, but was very excited about this movie. It has a great line of performers, and the cinematography was wonderful. They always say that movies based on fact are the best...with this one they were definitely right! Enjoy.
  • The old tried but true dangerous mission scenario that requires volunteers and initially gets no takers. Then after a misfit crew is assembled to man the Confederate States Submarine "Hunley" they get into scuffs with one another as they size each other up before they as a group are insulted which results in uniting them. They eventually go on their mission and pay the ultimate price. Sound familiar i.e. The Dirty Dozen, The Devils Brigade to name a couple. Armand Assante puts in a good performance as The Hunleys skipper. Donald Sutherland on the other hand seems uninterested in his role as General Beauregard.

    The young good old boy who keeps showing up to join and demonstrates his swimming ability by belly flopping and swimming madly seemed to serve no purpose in the story other than to be a sort of Jethro Bodine wannabe. The redeeming factor in this film is that it does tell a story that many people probably had no knowledge of. TNT will probably make another film about the very first submarine "The Turtle" before long.
  • The American Civil War is one of those times that history buffs love to revel in because of how tragic the war was. There have been so many personal stories revealed over decades about various people on both sides who fought the odds to prove themselves to others. Even in bigger events, there were people who had stories like this. Ronald F. Maxwell's Gettysburg (1993) and Gods and Generals (2003) were just a couple from a cluster of films made to shed light on these individuals. By far the most ingenious invention ever made during this period was the Hunley submarine used shortly by the confederates in 1864. Not long after, the Civil War would end in 1865. What's surprising is that not only was the Hunley the first of its kind to be a fully functioning combat sub, but it also vanished quickly after it was brought into the world. Discovered at the bottom of the ocean in 1995, it was then salvaged in 2000. In 1999, this TV Movie was made to try and explain what might have happened the last time it was used.

    Written and directed by John Gray (White Irish Drinkers (2010)), the story follows Lieutenant George Dixon (Armand Assante), a real life officer who volunteered to be the leader of the Hunley sub experiment. After a couple failed launches, Dixon tries one last time and recruit a team that'll make the mission a success. Soon he finds Simkins (Chris Bauer), Collins (Sebastian Roché), Wicks (Michael Stuhlbarg), Miller (Jeff Mandon), Becker (Michael Dolan), White (Frank Vogt) and his second in command Lt. Alexander (Alex Jennings). After being given the "go-ahead" by General Beauregard (Donald Sutherland), Dixon begins his preparation with his crew to use the Hunley. The script was also co-written John Fasano, the same writer to some bad to decent films like Universal Soldier: The Return (1999), Sniper: Reloaded (2011) and Sniper: Legacy (2014). For a story based mostly on fact, it's a decent watch. The problem is that it is predictable in a war drama sort of way. It's rather obvious as to how it'll play out.

    This can be troublesome for viewers because this does not permit the experience to be very suspenseful. It's unfortunate that that is how the story structure comes across. John Gray seems like a competent director but the execution follows a structure very close to other heroes who were believed to be a lost cause. However this particular issue does not take away the quality of the main leads. Both Armand Assante and Donald Sutherland emote correctly for the scenes required. They are also given backstories that allow the viewer to understand why they are who they are. Before Lt. Dixon went off on the Hunley mission, he was a regular infantryman and was narrowly saved by a gunshot that struck a coin given to him by his wife (Caprice Benedetti) before leaving. As time goes on, Dixon also realizes that he and General Beauregard share the same interests. The supporting cast is what suffers the most in development though. Although their actual histories were unclear, this gave the liberty to play with that.

    Chris Bauer as Simkins is the brawn and misses his wife. Sebastian Roché as Collins is frequently combative with others. Alex Jennings as Lt. Alexander gets seasick easy but will loyally follow his first in command. Aside from those three, everyone else has brief backgrounds given just to give them one character trait. One can catch fish with his hands and another speaks French. Not exactly the most important of attributes. Even the individuals focused on more like Simkins, Collins and Alexander aren't that greatly developed. Visual aspects to the film were largely credible though. For 1999, there are some bits that contain CGI, but they're not extensive enough to carry a full act in the film. That goes for things like quick cuts to the Hunley submarine underwater or a few explosions. The rest of what was put on screen were mainly practical sets and props. Clips that had city structures and interior shots of the Hunley were impressive to look at. The team behind making that prop made an accurate representation of it.

    The camera-work handled by John Thomas was relatively good. Although the film was made for TV and did not have a wide lens, the shots were nice to look at. Exterior scenes that contained the city sets look voluminous and the inside of the Hunley certainly looked cramped and uncomfortable for anyone to enjoy. Each shot gave what was needed in order to convey the correct setting to the audience that was watching. John Thomas would later shoot for big name movies like Sex and the City (2007) and Sex in the City 2 (2010). Randy Edelman composed the film score for sound. Being that Edelman had produced the widely underrated music to Gettysburg (1993), it's only appropriate that he scored this film as well. Since the story is not on large a scale, the music is not as grand in sound. The tracks contain more solo pieces from either trumpet or snare drums. Both contribute equally though and bring the right feeling for each scene especially dealing with Dixon. All in all it's a good watch but not as unique as one would think.

    Structurally the execution is not anything special, the supporting characters are not well developed and a lot the suspense is removed since it is known what happened to the civil war sub. However the actors are believable, the visuals, cinematography and music all help bring it to a level that is doable for a civil war film.
  • vpadgett14 December 1999
    One question about the accuracy of the TNT film "The Hunley" has to do with why the men didn't escape, by letting the sub fill with water, equalizing the pressure, and then lifting the hatch and getting out. My understanding is that in fact the first two sinkings did have 2 or 3 survivors in each lost crew because the men did exactly that. The third crew was probably too deep. Even if a man or two got out, it was too far to get to the surface. This all assumes that the crew has worked out in advance who gets to wait to go first, and second, while the sub fills with water. Not a fun thing to ponder.
  • Plain bad movie. I am sorry. I am a huge Civil War buff and watch every single film dedicated to this exciting topic. And the idea of making a movie about The Hunley torpedo boat in besieged Charleston seemed to be very very cool. Well, not with this film director, not with Armand Assante or even usually great (but here painfully weak) Donald Sutherland, not with such a meager budget, not with such cheese dialog, not with utterly predictable plot or very cliché'd events. From the very beginning we know the end and music helps to see it better. Well, war is all hell, we know, but here war is a boring, teeth-pulling affair of unbearable slowness. The film flopped on all levels and I am sorry, even 90 minutes were too long and too much for such a weak script. The video effects were at least amateurish, and very naive at large. The team tried but the film failed. And the very final is, well, outright sentimental namby-pamby. Do not watch it, not much to lose here
  • Thoroughly enjoyable historical action film. I was a tiny bit bothered that since the men wanted to escape and couldn't because of excessive pressure at that depth, then why didn't they open the hatch after filling the sub with water (thus equalizing the pressure inside and out)? But of course that would erroneously alter history! Maybe "picky-picky", huh?