17 December 2017 | Wuchakk
Reb cadets fighting in the Civil War
RELEASED IN 2015 and directed by Sean McNamara, "Field of Lost Shoes" (aka "Battlefield of Lost Souls") chronicles the Civil War Battle of New Market wherein the Confederates were forced to enlist the aid of cadets from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) to stave off Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley. While the story properly focuses on the young'uns, notable actors like Jason Isaacs, David Arquette, Keith David, Lauren Holly and Tom Skerritt are also on hand.
This particular occasion in history is pretty famous and I even remember reading about it in war comics when I was a kid, so it's interesting to finally see a cinematic depiction of it. The no-name youths are up to the challenge and, thankfully, they throw in some females to keep things interesting (e.g. Mary Mouser). Practically all the main characters are based on real-life people, including David as "Old Judge," who continued working for the VMI after attaining his freedom. Speaking of the VMI, the institute is still in use today and the movie was partially shot there.
One of the worst things about slavery is that it broke up families when a buyer would purchase one member of a family, but not the others. This is powerfully depicted in the opening.
"Field of Lost Shoes" is mostly a drama about the preparations for war during the Civil War, but when the action comes at almost the hour mark it's pretty effective and thrilling. The biggest downside of Civil War combat was that officers on both sides used outdated military tactics, which they learned from West Point & other academies. These tactics hailed from the Napoleonic wars of the early 1800s. Yet technological advances produced rifles with superior aim, which resulted in ridiculously long casualty lists. Soldiers had no recourse but to stoically march in formation right into friggin rifle and canon fire. Sure, I'd be willing to do this, but only if the Presidents, politicians, generals and colonels marched ahead of me. You get my drift.
So the movie's well done, as far as cast, costumes, locations and battle scenes go (despite a couple of clichés, like one guy utterly stopping to blow precious time emoting over a wounded comrade. Why Sure!). The CGI is less effective, but it gets the job done. The story, however, needed some kinks worked out to make it more compelling in the manner of the great "Glory" (1989). Still, I'd watch "Field of Lost Shoes" any day above the relatively dull, sappy and laboriously overlong "Gettysburg" (1993). To offer balance, I love the prequel "Gods and Generals" (2003).
THE FILM RUNS 95 minutes and was shot entirely in Virginia (Lexington, Charles City, Powhatan & Richmond). WRITERS: Thomas Farrell & David M. Kennedy.
GRADE: B/B- (6.5/10)