09 April 2008

The Crossing

Small Scale Doesn’t Hurt The Crossing
By Kristin Battestella

A&E doesn’t make films like they used to. 2000’s The Crossing is a fine piece of education production, made smartly and properly like those of old. Unfortunately, the small scale of the film almost undoes the show.
Most Americans-and especially us folk from New Jersey-know the story: Christmas, 1776. George Washington (Jeff Daniels) crosses the frozen Delaware River and attacks the Hessians in Trenton. The victory turns the tide of the American Revolution, and we thank Washington very much.
Although Jeff Daniels is stellar as another American War hero Joshua Chamberlain in Gettysburg, he is perfectly cast here. Daniels portrays the respect and power Washington already earned, but shows the doubt and weight of the Revolution on the modest farmer. Most of the rest of the cast is unknown, but each look the period part-powdered wigs and proper uniforms. Stephen McCarthy (The Skulls) as a young Alexander Hamilton has the next most prominent role, along with Sebastian Roche (Beowulf) as Colonel John Glover. The dialogue is just right, and I suspect writer Howard Fast and director Robert Harmon considered the numerous period documents and writings of Washington for the film along with Fast’s historical
source novel.

The Crossing

As darling as it is to see so thoroughly a New Jersey show, The Crossing showcases the Trenton of old. Naturally, we don’t have old fashioned barracks and untouched shores anymore. It’s sad to say but The Crossing was probably not filmed here-indeed it was Canada! The buildings and fortifications look authentic, but seem small in scale. Granted this was not a huge battle in numbers or battle scope per se, but today we are spoiled by big effects and the like.
In addition to the fine costumes and individually looks of the American Generals and the Hessians, The Crossing does fine work with period lighting. We take lighting for granted in films today, but the team here makes everything look like candlelight. You can still see the nighttime or indoor scenes just fine, but this subtle authenticity is a lovely piece of the movie.

The one strike against The Crossing is the made for television scale, but A&E did a fine job in keeping with its Classroom programs. There’s plenty of battle action, but little violence and gore. History teachers have struck gold when showing the Emmy winning The Crossing in schools.
Historians, period piece fans, and Jersey enthusiasts can watch The Crossing again and again. All the important details are just right, so if it seems small or dated-just remember it’s supposed to be that way. Look for the DVD and add it to your historical library.

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