Picks and Pans Review: Longitude

updated 07/10/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/10/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

A&E (Sun., July 9, 8 p.m. ET)

Though Longitude is lengthy enough to be a miniseries, A&E is asking viewers to navigate the historical drama in one four-hour trip (including commercial breaks). This adaptation of Dava Sobel's bestseller is talky, complex, technical—will you be tempted to jump ship?

Not if you properly appreciate the work of two of Britain's best actors, Michael Gambon and Jeremy Irons. Gambon gives a powerful performance as John Harrison, an 18th-century clockmaker who strove for more than 50 years—with a huge monetary prize hanging in the balance—to convince the British scientific establishment that longitude at sea should be determined by timekeeping rather than stargazing. Harrison's struggles would surely be enough for one TV movie. But writer-director Charles Sturridge, expanding on a brief section of Sobel's book, also tells the parallel story of Rupert Gould (Irons), a former naval officer troubled by mental illness, who dedicated himself to restoring Harrison's original sea clocks in the 20th century. The film's frequent time shifts can be taxing; still, many viewers will feel that Irons's finely crafted characterization is more than adequate reward for their perseverance.

Bottom Line: Stay the course

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