It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Here is a Civil War movie that Trent Lott might enjoy. Less enlightened than "Gone With the Wind," obsessed with military strategy, impartial between South and North, religiously devout, it waits 70 minutes before introducing the first of its two speaking roles for African Americans; "Stonewall" Jackson assures his black cook that the South will free him, and the cook looks cautiously optimistic. If World War II were handled this way, there'd be hell to pay.
The movie is essentially about brave men on both sides who fought and died so that ... well, so that they could fight and die. They are led by generals of blinding brilliance and nobility, although one Northern general makes a stupid error and the movie shows hundreds of his men being slaughtered at great length as the result of it.
The Northerners, one Southerner explains, are mostly Republican profiteers who can go home to their businesses and families if they're voted out of office after the conflict, while the Southerners are fighting for their homes. Slavery is not the issue, in this view, because it would have withered away anyway, although a liberal professor from Maine (Jeff Daniels) makes a speech explaining it is wrong. So we get that cleared up right there, or for sure at Strom Thurmond's birthday party.
The conflict is handled with solemnity worthy of a memorial service. The music, when it is not funereal, sounds like the band playing during the commencement exercises at a sad university. Countless extras line up, march forward and shoot at each other. They die like flies. That part is accurate, although the stench, the blood and the cries of pain are tastefully held to the PG-13 standard. What we know about the war from the photographs of Mathew Brady, the poems of Walt Whitman and the documentaries of Ken Burns is not duplicated here.