'Field of Lost Shoes': Film Review
Sean McNamara's Civil War drama chronicles the events of the 1864 Battle of New Market
Strained Southern accents and fake facial hair are the primary ingredients of Sean McNamara’s low-budget Civil War drama dramatizing the events leading up to and including 1864’s Battle of New Market. Displaying what can charitably be described as revisionist history and failing to match the impact of such similarly styled historical dramas as Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, Field of Lost Shoes feels strictly like small-screen fodder. Other than in pockets of the Deep South and Virginia where it was filmed, the box office should match the fate of the Confederacy.
The narrative portion of Thomas Farrell and Dave Kennedy’s screenplay is bookended by footage of the Virginia Military Institute’s annual ceremony honoring its 10 cadets who perished in the battle to defend the Shenandoah Valley against advancing Union forces.
The teenage cadets were summoned to augment the dwindling the Southern army, here led by former U.S. Vice President John C. Breckinridge (Jason Isaacs). Among their ranks were John Wise (Luke Enward), the son of Governor Henry A. Wise (John Rixey Moore), here incongruously depicted as being anti-slavery and anti-secession, and Moses Ezekiel (Josh Zuckerman), VMI’s first Jewish cadet who went on to become a celebrated sculptor.
The cliche-ridden storyline features such war film staples as a doomed love story, with cadet Sam (Max Lloyd-Jones) becoming hopelessly smitten with a local girl (Mary Mouser) whose mother (Lauren Holly), when asked if a wounded soldier is her son, replies, “They’re all my sons.”
Tom Skerritt, decades too old for the role, plays Ulysses S. Grant, while David Arquette, sporting a bushy mustache, appears as a Union colonel who shouts, “God bless the Pennsylvania boys, holding fast!”
Amazingly, none of the staunch Southerners seem to hold any negative feelings toward blacks, defending the Institute’s beloved cook “Judge” (Keith David) from persecution and stopping to rescue a young slave woman trapped under a fallen carriage.
The battle, which took place on a muddy field in which shoes indeed were lost, is reasonably well choreographed and filmed, but ultimately lacks the excitement of a typical Civil War reenactment.
Best viewed as a glossy advertisement for the venerable military academy that is its focus, Field of Lost Shoes doesn’t exactly score points for objectivity.
Production: Brookwell-McNamara Entertainment, Tredegar Film Works
Cast: Luke Benward, Lauren Holly, Jason Isaacs, Tom Skerritt, Keith David, David Arquette, Zach Roerig
Director: Sean McNamara
Screenwriters/producers: Thomas Farrell, Dave Kennedy
Executive producer: Brandon D. Hogan
Director of photography: Brad Shield
Editor: Jeff Canavan
Production designer: Dawn R. Ferry
Costume designer: Kevin R. Hershberger
Composer: Frederik Wiedmann
Casting: Joey Paul Jensen
Rated PG-13, 96 mins.