Picks and Pans Review: Lewis & Clark: the Journey of the Corps of Discovery

UPDATED 11/03/1997 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 11/03/1997 at 01:00 AM EST

PBS (Tues.-Wed., Nov. 4-5, 8 p.m. ET)

B

Speaking of slow progress, consider the trailblazing expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, under orders from President Thomas Jefferson. Alternately on foot, boat and horseback, 33 explorers took nearly 2½ years (1804-1806) to make the arduous journey from the Mississippi to the Pacific and back. By comparison, documentarian Ken Burns (The Civil War and Baseball) isn't asking viewers to do much: Just sit still for four hours and drink in the history. But that's not as easy as it sounds. With visuals from the period limited to paintings, maps and diary pages, Burns fills the screen primarily with cinematography of a vast, beautiful, unpopulated landscape (tastefully excluding any signs of modern development). As such actors as Adam Arkin and Matthew Broderick read from the explorers' journals, viewers are asked to imagine the trek west as the early-19th-century equivalent of a voyage to another planet. It's a long haul, all right.

Surprisingly the talking heads save the day. Dayton Duncan, the film's writer and coproducer, and author Stephen E. Ambrose (Undaunted Courage) handle the lion's share of the on-camera storytelling (Hal Holbrook does the voice-over narration), and they show such passion for the subject that history takes on the immediacy of discovery.

Your Reaction

Follow Us

On Newsstands Now

Robin Roberts: How Loved Saved Me
  • Robin Roberts: How Loved Saved Me
  • Emma and Andrew: All About Hollywood's Cutest Couple
  • Prince George! More Yummy Photos

Pick up your copy on newsstands

Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine

Advertisement

From Our Partners

Watch It

Editors' Picks

From Our Partners



Sign up for our daily newsletter and other special offers.
    Choose your newsletters
Thank you for signing up! Your request may take up to one week to be processed.
    see all newsletters