“There were seven boys from Texas, rode off to fight a war” – Journey to Shiloh (DVD Review)

If you’re looking for your new favourite Harrison Ford film, look elsewhere.

Despite being hyped as one of the big names in this picture, Harrison sadly doesn’t do much in Journey to Shiloh. Although, yes, he is part of the main ensemble, for the majority of the film he just stands in the background; filling out the roll of the quiet, mysterious, knife-wielding bad-ass that you tend to find in these ensemble action films. But to be honest, once you get past that, there’s nothing wrong with missing out on a bit of Harrison. We’ve always got more appearances in Star Wars to look forward to, right?

Oh, wait.

But that’s okay, because the rest of the cast are just as enjoyable. With James Caan in the lead as Buck Burnett, he and Ford’s Willie Bill Murden are joined by Miller Nalls (Michael Sarrazin), Todo McLean (Don Stroud), J.C. Sutton (Paul Petersen), Eubie Bell (Michael Burns) and Little Bit Lucket (Jan-Michael Vincent), all of whom are introduced in this nifty little song following the opening credits:

Journey to Shiloh follows these seven long-haired Texans; the Concho County Comanches; who have set off to Richmond, Virginia to join the Confederate army, in the American Civil War. On the way, they face danger, romance and bromance, as they slowly start to realise (as anyone with a basic knowledge of American history will know) that the Confederates are probably not the army you want to be joining if you’ve got nothing against black people or ‘yankees’. But by their own admittance, they don’t even know what the war is about, so we shouldn’t blame them.

What starts off as a pleasant western romp, later transforms into a film that seems to be about the horrors of war and the choices a man must make for what he believes is right.
It’s filled with cliched characters such as an overly aggressive army general and a hysterical barmaid who becomes madly in love after a one-night-stand.

bucks best girl

As such, the film flies by without too much work done on characterization or a focus on what’s in the past, as the main characters seemingly forget about any of their fallen number the scene after they die. But that’s probably because director William Hale doesn’t want to take the focus away from Caan’s affable Buck. Buck is the star of this film; it’s all about his wants, needs and beliefs, and the rest of his ensemble are simply a means to help him understand the various stakes of the story.

That focus on Caan occasionally seems to mean that the rest of the cast isn’t allowed to demonstrate much acting skill, instead playing things basic and low-key, but all-in-all, Journey to Shiloh is still an enjoyable movie. Nothing life changing, but something that audiences will be able to sit down and watch to kill a few hours, without feeling like they’ve wasted their time. It’s definitely nowhere near as bad as the 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes would suggest.

3/5

Dir: William Hale
Scr: Gene L. Coon
Cast: James Caan, Michael Sarrazin, Don Stroud, Paul Petersen, Michael Burns, Harrison Ford, Jan-Michael Vincent, Brenda Scott, Noah Beery Jr.
Prd: Howard Christie
DOP: Enzo A. Martinelli
Music: David Gates
Country: USA

Year: 1968
Runtime: 101 Minutes

Journey to Shiloh is available on DVD now.