I'm a fan of long movies. I loved "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" and I liked the extended edition even more. Most of the movies in my Top 25 of all time crack 2 1/2 hours.
But "Gods and Generals" is where I draw the line. I loved "Gettysburg," but I thought it was a little long. This, though, is a disaster.
To be sure, "Gods and Generals" is a great movie, an epic in every sense of the word. The acting is superb, and I truly believe that Stephen Lang deserves Academy Award consideration for his performance, but the creators of this film -- the same people who brought us "Gettysburg" -- needed to cut the film by at least half an hour.
The movie is the story of the Civil War from the beginning leading up to the battle of Gettysburg, and is told masterfully, despite being told mostly from the perspective of the south. It focuses on General Stonewall Jackson (who wasn't in "Gettysburg" because he died shortly before that battle), with a side plot introducing us to Joshua Chamberlain, "Gettysburg"'s central character. Robert E. Lee also plays a more prominent role in this film, and Robert Duvall, a direct decendant of Lee, does a great job portraying the conflicted general.
However, all the great performances in the movie are overshadowed by it's length. By the time you hit the second hour, you're focusing on scenes that can be cut. You look for extra fat that needs to be trimmed throughout the entire thing. For example, the Christmas sing-along, or many of the scenes that follow it.
"Gods and Generals" was an ambitious project, and for the most part, it was successful. It would have been much, much better if it'd been around 40 minutes shorter.