Watch Class of '61
- 1 hr 35 min
Class of '61 is a 1993 made-for-television movie which chronicles the lives of six cadets from the United States Military Academy at West Point who are serving during the tumultuous period leading up to the American Civil War. The movie was directed by Gregory Hoblit and starred Christien Anholt, Andre Braugher, Dan Futterman, Clive Owen and Josh Lucas.
The film follows the lives and relationships of these six cadets â Shelton (Anholt), Pierce (Braugher), Shelby (Futterman), Thomas (Owen), Warner (Lucas) and Dowd (John Neville) â during their four years at West Point, from 1857 to 1861. The cadets come from diverse backgrounds: Shelton is the son of a wealthy Southern plantation owner, Pierce is a black cadet from Philadelphia, Shelby is the son of a Baptist preacher from Ohio, Thomas is a Scottish immigrant, Warner is a New England aristocrat, and Dowd is an old-timer who has lost faith in the institution.
The movie explores issues of race, class, politics, and honor as the cadets learn the skills and attitudes necessary to become military leaders. The cadets are taught by strict, duty-driven officers like Colonel Delavan (Mykelti Williamson) and Captain Clavan (Clarence Felder) who instill military discipline and instigate a sense of loyalty to the army above all else.
As the cadets struggle to acclimate to West Point life, they are tasked with confronting the challenges of the country at large, including the controversial ruling in the Dred Scott case, which declared that slaves were not citizens of the United States; the political turmoil leading up to the Lincoln-Douglas debates; and John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry. The cadets' differing perspectives on these events put them at odds with one another, reflecting the growing divide between the Northern and Southern states.
One important theme explored in the movie is the way in which honor is constructed and enforced at West Point. The cadets are held to strict standards of behavior and responsibility and are expected to uphold the honor of the institution at all times. When a cheating scandal rocks the academy, the cadets are forced to confront their own values and beliefs about the meaning of honor.
Class of '61 is a compelling and thought-provoking film that examines the complex issues surrounding the Civil War through the eyes of six young cadets. With a talented cast and a balanced, nuanced script, the movie manages to capture the multiple perspectives and complex motivations of its characters without resorting to simplistic portrayals or worn-out stereotypes. Recommended for fans of historical dramas and anyone interested in the causes and effects of the American Civil War.